20/04/2018 16:28 SAST | Updated 20/04/2018 18:38 SAST

Why King Mswati III Is Changing Swaziland's Name

The name change could mean that the country's constitution is rewritten.

Swaziland's King Mswati III announced on Thursday that his country had changed its name to "the Kingdom of eSwatini" [meaning "place of the Swazi"], to mark 50 years since independence from British rule. Mswati made the announcement at the celebrations, which coincided with his 50th birthday.

After independence, countries like Rhodesia became Zimbabwe, Nyasaland became Malawi, and Bechuanaland became Botswana, but Swaziland did not change its name when it gained independence in 1968, after being a British protectorate for more than 60 years.

Getty Images

It got its name from the 19th-century king named Mswati II, the greatest of the fighting kings of Swaziland, who extended the area of the country considerably. KaNgwane, named for Ngwane III, is an alternative name for Swaziland.

The nation regained its independence on September 6, 1968.

In 1881 the British government signed a convention that recognised Swazi independence, despite the "scramble for Africa" that was taking place among European powers at the time. This independence was also recognised in the convention of 1884.

However, because of controversial land/mineral rights and other concessions, Swaziland had a triumviral administration in 1890, following the death of King Mbandzeni in 1889. This government represented the British, the Boer republics and the Swazi people.

Finally, in 1894, a convention placed Swaziland under the South African Republic [the independent Boer republic that later became the Transvaal province] as a protectorate. In 1903, after British victory in the Second Anglo-Boer War, Swaziland became a British protectorate.

Over much of the 1900s, as Swazi education systems differentiated themselves from those of the British, the Swazi leadership began to take a stronger hand in leading the country and passively resisting the weakening power of the British administration.

Eventually the constitution for independent Swaziland was promulgated by Britain in November 1963, under the terms of which legislative and executive councils were established. Elections were held under this constitution for the first time in 1967. Britain granted Swaziland full independence in 1968.

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
King Mswati III (C) attends a traditional Umhlanga Festival at Ludzidzini Royal Village in Lobamba, Swaziland on August 28, 2016.

According to Al Jazeera, the name change could mean that the country's constitution is rewritten, and could bring changes for the Royal Swaziland Police Force, the Swaziland Defence Force and the University of Swaziland.