Swazis are said to belong to the Nguni people who lived in central Africa andmigrated to southern Africa. They speak the Siswati language , a languageearlier spoken by the Nguni group of the Bantu family. They seem to have settlein Swaziland around five hundred years ago. They were then ruled by the Britishfrom the mid 19th century to mid 20th century. Swaziland is a monarchy and isruled by King Mswati III. Social Organization The social organization in theSwazis is like any other African tribe. The homestead is the economic anddomestic unit of the family.
It is headed by the Umnumza or headman who is incharge of the family which includes his wives and children. Sons will bringthere wives to the homestead and setup home within it while the daughters moveto their in-laws. The occupants who reside in the homestead can also be distantrelatives or non dependents. Therefore the number of people for whom the headmanis responsible economically ,legally and by ritual may vary according his statusand wealth. A wealthy headman may have many wives therefore he has a largenumber of people he is responsible for. The headman usually would subdivide thelarge homestead in order to gain access to larger tracts of cultivable land ordivide quarrelsome wives . The homestead is planned according to therelationships between its inhabitants . Usually in the center of the homesteadis the cattle pen and grain storage units, which are underground flask shapedpits.
Women are not allowed access to theses places. The living quarters aregrouped in a semicircle with the indlunkuku ( great hut) which is home to themost important woman in the homestead , the mother of the headman. If she isdead then a substitute mother is appointed. On the sides are the quarters of thewives ,each with her own sleeping ,cooking and storage huts and enclosed with areed fence for protection against ‘wind . The ranking of wives is not rigid butit depends on the headman and his preference of wives. the clear demarkation ofthe wives huts and the fact that each of them own their own garden land andcattle does not erase the fact that the headmans mothers house is supreme.The children sleep with their mothers until they are old enough to stay withtheir paternal grandmother . Then they are separated by sex .
Growing girls stayclose to their mother while boys and unmarried men stay at the edge of thehomestead. Marriage is important to Swazis. Arranged marriages are common butare declining because of the growing independence of the women which issupported by western culture. After the bride has been selected the two familiesstart formal negotiations concerning the bride price. The bride price is paid inorder to get married. The king is an exception to this, he has the right to takeby force any girl he likes (quoma). The bride price is usually cattle .Itdiffers with the status of the women, commoners ask for 100 while princesses askfor 200 cattle or more .
The Swazi marriage is an elaborate affair. It consistsof many religious ceremonies . This too is declining because most Swazis areChristian converts and prefer to get married in churches. The bride is sent fromhome with blessing from her ancestors and gifts fro her in-laws. Initially shehas to appear reluctant and decline the welcome demonstrations held by herfuture in-laws. she enters the cow pen where she is pleading her brothers torescue her. In the end she accepts her faith and her future mother in-law smearsred clays symbolizing loss of virginity. She is given a baby which depicts herrole as a mother and wife.
As most African tribes polygamy is accepted andencouraged in the Swazi culture. Polygamy is only practiced among Swazis whoare wealthy and can support their wives. In the Swazi culture the woman primaryrole is to bear children. The grooms group can claim any children the womanbears irrespective of the biological father. In case the woman does not bear anychildren provision is made for her sister to bear children for her.
The bridesfamily is not allowed to ask for any bride wealth in this case . Althoughdivorces are recognized by the Swazi traditional law they are uncommon. A womanmay leave her husband only for brutal behavior . The families try