Swaziland facts

Swaziland is mostly known for its beautiful landscapes and friendly people. What is less known outside the country is the brutal nature of the undemocratic regime and the extreme inequality, poverty, and rate of disease-related deaths that most of the population face, whilst a small elite based around the royal family live in extreme luxury.

In an attempt to fight poverty, however, the regime has deemed it necessary to purchase several luxury cars to enable the king and queen to visit the many impoverished areas. If you wish to contribute to this programme, you will find collection boxes at all border crossings and in the international airport.

  • 69% of the Swaziland’s population survive on less than US 1$ dollar a day
  • Over 40% of the population require food aid
  • Swaziland in one of the financially most unequal countries in the world, even more so than Zimbabwe
  • Even though most of Swaziland’s population is manifestly impoverished, Swaziland is nevertheless a Middle Income Country because of the enormous wealth of a small elite
  • Most people rely on subsistence agriculture for their livelihood
  • The unemployment rate is over 40%, one of the highest in the world
  • The inflation rate is over 7%, one of the highest in the world
  • The industrial growth rate is -3,5%
  • Swaziland’s debt is over US$ 500,000,000
  • Swaziland’s military expenditure is the 19th highest per capita in the world
  • Over 40 per cent of the population are HIV-positive, the highest rate in the world
  • In 2009 only 32,000 Swazi’s were receiving anti-retroviral drug treatment
  • Swaziland also has the highest level of tuberculosis infection, the disease being the country’s main cause of death due to aggravation with HIV/AIDS
  • Life expectancy is just over 30 years
  • Political prisoners and detainees are more or less routinely tortured by police and security forces, and unfair trials and long delays in the justice system are commonplace
  • Freedom of expression in Swaziland is seriously compromised, not least by the 2008 Suppression of Terrorism Act, and by the government labelling of all political oppositional forces as “terrorists”
  • Publishing criticism of the monarchy is banned and the press widely employs self-censorship
  • Freedom of assembly is severely restricted and political gatherings are often denied and protesters routinely dispersed, detained and mistreated by the police
  • Swaziland was deemed to be “not free” by Freedom House, the lowest ranking possible in regards to a countries level of political freedom
  • The death penalty is operational in Swaziland, and two people are currently under sentence of death. Swaziland voted against a UN General Assembly resolution calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions
  • Corruption in Swaziland is rampant, not least amongst members of parliament. Swaziland was ranked 79th in Transparency International’s 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index

Sources: The Suppression of Terrorism Act undermines Human Rights in Swaziland, Amnesty International; 2009 Annual Report for Swaziland; The World Factbook; Freedom House, Swaziland; Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.