Swazi - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the dominant Dlamini clan created a hierarchy of control by amalgamating and ranking through conquest, treaty, and peaceful incorporation over seventy disparate, equal clans under a hereditary monarchy. The Swazi hierarchical ranking system came to consist of several units: the polygynous patriarchal family, the hierarchy of clans and lineages, the dual monarchy, the age grades, and the groups of specialists. The stability of the ruling elite's control was achieved through a balance of power among the king, his mother, princes, and commoners, as well as between the dual monarchy and the chiefs. Moreover, Swazi hierarchy harmoniously blended authoritarian political privileges of birth with egalitarian participation in age classes and councils. With the coming of Europeans in the late nineteenth century, the traditional hierarchy was forced to compete with a new, colonial administrative hierarchy that was based upon race and oriented toward the accumulation of wealth. After Swaziland achieved independence in 1968, a complex administrative system was fused together from parts of the dual hierarchy (see "Political Organization"). Currently, traditional hierarchical arrangements are most threatened by the developing class system that found root in the economic and social changes of the colonial period.

Political Organization. Swaziland's government is a monarchy. Its political organization is characterized by dualism: the parallel political structures consist of a "traditional" and a "modern" (postcolonial) hierarchy. At the apex of the traditional hierarchy is the Swazi monarch, who as a member of the Dlamini clan, holds supreme executive, legislative, and judicial power. He governs with the assistance of his traditional advisers. At the middle level of the traditional hierarchy are chiefs who consult with their council of elders ( bandlancane ), and at the lowest level are homestead heads who consult with their lusendvo (lineage Council). The modern structure, through which the monarch's power is also delegated, consists of modern, statutory bodies, such as a cabinet and a parliament that passes legislation (subject to approval by the king), which is administered in four regions, and less formal governmental structures, consisting of Swazi Courts and forty subregional districts in which the traditional chiefs are grouped.

Social Control. The colonial powers altered some Swazi customary legal rules and procedures and imposed Roman-Dutch law as the general law. As a result, Swaziland developed a dual system of law and courts consisting of traditional councils, in which procedures are not controlled by legislative enactments or by codified legal rules, and modern courts, which have been formalized by national legislation. Traditional councils consist of the clan/lineage council (lusendvo), the chief's council (bandlancane), and the king's council. Modern courts consist of both Swazi and European-influenced courts at lower levels, including the Swazi Courts, two Courts of Appeal, the Higher Swazi Court of Appeal, and the king on the Swazi-influenced side, and the Subordinate Courts, the High Court, and the Court of Appeal on the European-influenced side. The Swazi Courts Act of 1950 provided for the formal composition of customary courts, the type of law they may apply (customary law), the procedure to be followed, and the limits of the courts' jurisdiction over persons. Swazis may exercise some discretion, depending upon individual circumstances, in choosing which legal forum to pursue a case.

Conflict. Swazis were engaged in tribal warfare until the imposition of European control in the late nineteenth century. Following the arrival of European concessionaires, severe conflicts developed between Swazis and Europeans regarding alienated land (see "History and Cultural Relations"). Throughout history, conflicts arose between Swazi clan and lineage members (commonly co-wives and half-brothers) in association with daily interactions and were often attributed to suspected acts of witchcraft and sorcery. In modern-day Swaziland, interpersonal conflicts are influenced by many social and economic changes, including altered sex roles, increased job competition, labor migration, and the growth of an educated elite. Some Swazis believe that the legal prohibition of "witch finding" exacerbates conflicts by protecting evildoers who promote themselves at the workplace and in personal affairs through the use of magic. New or intensified pressures upon status relationships in stratified Swazi society are also producing conflicts.

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