The Swazi people originally come from central-east Africa, and settled in Swaziland as part of the Nguni expansion southwards. Battles between the Dlamini clan and the Ndwandwe clan meant that the Dlamini clan retreated to the central part of what is today modern Swaziland. After having been a “protectorate” under British rule, Swaziland gained its independence in 1968 under King Sobhuza II.

In the first rounds of elections to be held, the King’s party won all seats in parliament, but when the Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC) won three seats in the 1973 elections, the King dissolved parliament, repealed the constitution, made all political parties illegal, and ruled by decree until his death in 1982. After internal squabbles within the royal family as to who would succeed Sobhuza II, King Mswati III was finally crowned in 1986. Mswati III still kept the ban on political parties and ruled by decree.

The Tinkundla system, a “traditional” system whereby the king controls elections through appointing 10 members of parliament, 20 members of the senate, and by local chiefs vetting all candidates, was maintained. As the king is believed to have been appointed by god in the unique brand of Swazi “democracy” called Tinkundla, the king appoints the chiefs, the chiefs appoint the members of parliament together with the king, and the king owns all land and resources.

During Mswati III’s rule, the Swazi regime has become increasingly intolerant of, and violent towards, the ever-expanding democratic movement. The leadership and members of the main political party (all political parties are banned and illegal) advocating democracy and a respect for human rights, the People’s Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), have been singled out for harassment and mistreatment, but anyone voicing an opinion that is in opposition to the present, undemocratic regime is targeted by police. There have been countless instances of harassment, beatings, torture and even killings of members of the democratic movement, a recent example of the latter being the alleged “suicide” of PUDEMO-member Sipho Jele in police custody in May 2010.