By accident, we are clocking up another country in the count of countries that we have visited – Swaziland.
Swaziland is an indépendant kingdom bordered by South Africa to the north, south and west and Mozambique to the east. It is no more than 200 kilometres from north to south and 130 kilometres east to west, It is the smallest country in Africa and probably the most insignificant. It is much poorer than South Africa with a large part of the population earning little more than US$1 per day.
The country is an absolute monarchy, currently ruled by Ngwenyama (“King”) Mswati III. He is head of state and appoints the country’s prime ministers and a number of representatives of both chambers (Senate and House of Assembly) in the country’s parliament. While many of his subjects live in poverty, the King is said to be worth around US$110 million. I understand that it is against the law to mention that he has 13 wives. We passed the national parliament building which seems to me to be of little value as the king can over-rule anything that the parliament decides.
After the Anglo-Boer War, Swaziland became a British protectorate when its people, afraid of losing their culture if absorbed into the colony of South Africa, beseeched Queen Victoria to allow it to exist as a British Protectorate rather than a colony. It gained its independence in 1968.
Swaziland’s economy is diversified, with agriculture, forestry and mining accounting for about 13% of its GDP, manufacturing (textiles and sugar-related processing) representing 37% of GDP and services – with government services in the lead – constituting 50% of GDP. There must be some component of the economy devoted to photos and statues of the king. They are everywhere!
We left the Ghost Mountain Lodge a little later this morning as we really didn’t have far to travel. This turned out to be very beneficial as it gave me time to get down to the doctor’s surgery and back before it was time to leave. I thought that I might have then needed to find a pharmacy somewhere in town but it turned out that the doctor was a dispensing doctor and she provided the medication that I needed from her own stock. I’m feeling a lot better even after just the first day of medication. Compared to Australia, it wasn’t a very expensive visit. The consultation itself cost just $30 and the four types of medication including an injection in my bum cost another $40.
Not far from our previous night’s stop at Mikuze, we crossed the border into Swaziland. We all had to walk across the border, first having our passports checked by the South African Border Control and then going through the Swaziland immigration office. I’m not sure why the border posts for this insignificant country are so grand. They were big enough, and modern enough, to have suited any international airport, let alone along a remote border post along a bumpy road and at the top of a hill.
The country side that we passed was mostly agricultural with some subsistence farming along with enormous fields of sugar cane and pineapples. We stopped for lunch at a little restaurant and group of shops near Lobamba (the capital of Swaziland). There were ten, or so, little shops there that actually sold quite nice handicrafts. More often the not, these places are full of cheap crap but these ones were nice enough for us to buy a few things and contribute to the local economy, I think that two large hamburgers, a beer and a couple of glasses of wine cost me about $18.
We saw our first giraffes today. They, and a few zebra, were in the more arid area near the border post. The only other wildlife we saw was a very large snake thrashing around on the road. I think it had been run over by a car. It looked as though it was in pain but none of us wanted to get close to it and do anything with it
It was only a short drive from our lunch spot to our accommodation for one night at The Royal Villas in Lobamba. Tomorrow, we have an early start in order to get to Kruger National Park in time for an afternoon game drive. There is v very poor internet access in Swaziland so I will upload this post when we back into South Africa and I can find a connection.