Sobhuza II

(1899—1982) king of Swaziland

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(b. Zombodze, 22 July 1899; d. Mbabane, 21 Aug. 1982)

Swazi; King of the Swazi 1921–82, King of Swaziland 1968–82 Sobhuza was recognized as King of the Swazi nation soon after his birth although his grandmother, Gwamile, acted as regent until his coronation in 1921. During the colonial period (Swaziland was a British protectorate) he maintained the traditional Swazi system, which included a dominant role for the Ngwenyama (the ‘lion king’) but was always willing to make adaptations to reflect changing conditions. Towards the end of colonial rule he was hostile towards British plans to set up a liberal-democratic system but then outmanœuvred all his opponents by establishing his own royalist party, the Imbokodvo National Movement, which won all the seats in the pre-independence elections.

Under the independence constitution he was legally a constitutional monarch but, in reality, he totally dominated the political system. In 1973, following the election of a small number of opposition MPs, he scrapped the constitution and ruled by decree as an absolute monarch. Under his rule Swaziland was politically stable and enjoyed relative economic prosperity.

At the time of his death he was the longest-reigning monarch in the world, having been King for over sixty years.

Subjects: Politics — African Studies.

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