Swaziland

Institutionalization of Ethnic Categories

Key Dates
Details/Documentation

Sources

Key Dates

  • 1903: Swaziland becomes a British protectorate
  • 1968: Swaziland gains independence from Britain

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Details/Documentation

Race

Surrounded by South Africa, Swaziland was influenced by many of South Africa’s policies when under British colonial rule, and race categories were institutionalized by the state but to a much more limited extent, as such institutions were increasingly removed prior to independence. Policies of racial institutionalization largely ended with independence in 1968.

Starting with the 1904 census, race was counted on every census under colonial rule. In the 1976 census, the first following independence, the census recorded the race of non-African respondents.

Education in Swaziland was racially segregated under colonial rule. The education system was largely modeled after the one developed in South Africa’s Transvaal region. Beginning in 1902, the government provided for education of European children, while education of African children was generally left to missionaries working in Swaziland (Booth 2003: 38). Education for European children became compulsory in 1920, but remained optional for Africans. By 1924, fewer than 3,000 of about 22,000 school-aged Swazi children were attending missionary or government schools (Booth 2003: 40). Schools remained segregated throughout the 1940s and 1950s (Booth 2003: 53).

A 1910 policy divided the land into European and Swazi portions. The Swazi portion, which amounted to about one third of the total land, included the unproductive regions (Kowet 1978: 48). In 1914, Swazis were removed to these native reserves (Booth 2003: 23)

From 1910 to 1940, Swazis were taxed separately from whites (Crush 1997: 215). Swazi taxes included a poll tax on males and a hut tax on each wife (Crush 1985: 183).

In 1950, the Native Courts Proclamation created a Swazi court system, which only arbitrated over issues related solely to Swazis (Van Wyk 1969: 11).

Towards the end of the colonial period, institutionalized racial policies were abolished. Integration of the school system was complete by independence (Booth 2003: 55), and the 1962 Race Relations Proclamation abolished racial discrimination in Swaziland (Stevens 1967: 197).

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Language

We find very little institutionalization of ethnic categories in Swaziland. Most instances of reference to the Swazi ethnic category treat it as the only relevant category and no distinctions are made relative to others.

The 1966 and 1976 censuses asked questions on ethnic groups and recorded tribe for African respondents, but ethno-linguistic questions were not asked on other censuses.

Succession to the office of King is hereditary and governed by Swazi law and custom, it is not possible for members of other ethnic groups to hold this office.

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Religion

We find minimal evidence of institutionalized religious categories. Religion was enumerated on censuses between 1911 and 1956, but not on any other census.

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Caste

None found

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Indigenous

None found

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Other ethnic, including tribe

None found

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Sources

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