Swaziland Independence Day

Observed annually on September 6th, Swaziland Independence Day commemorates the country attaining full autonomy from British rule in 1968. Now known as Eswatini since 2018, this small landlocked nation in Southern Africa celebrates the date as Umhlanga Day or Somhlolo Day. The holiday signifies an important step in establishing the Swazi kingdom’s modern independence and national identity.

Swaziland Independence Day

This article provides background on Eswatini’s road to sovereignty, the history behind Swaziland Independence Day, and how it is celebrated today as both a national public holiday and traditional Reed Dance ceremony.

Eswatini’s Path to Independence

Prior to independence, Swaziland was a British protectorate under indirect rule:

  • Ruled by British since 1903 after Second Boer War
  • King Sobhuza II retained powers over local affairs
  • Britain controlled foreign policy and economy
  • Swazi demands for independence grew in 1950s and 60s
  • New constitution written to enable full sovereignty

Full independence came after decades of growing Swazi nationalism seeking self-governance and freedom from colonial influence.

The Significance of September 6th

On September 6th, 1968, Swaziland was granted independence on the condition King Sobhuza II be vested with all executive, legislative, and judicial powers. Key events on the historic date included:

  • British High Commissioner formally relinquishing powers to the King
  • The blue and gold Eswatini flag first raised at midnight
  • King announced independence at a parliament ceremony
  • Independence celebrated by over 50,000 attendees
  • Held during the pre-existing Umhlanga Reed Dance

This transition of authority created the modern constitutional monarchy.

Celebrating Swaziland Independence Day

Swaziland Independence Day is celebrated both as a national holiday and the Umhlanga festival:

National Observances

  • King gives speeches praising independence heroes
  • Citizens march in celebratory parades
  • Concerts, sporting events, festivals across country
  • Public buildings decorated in blue and gold

The Umhlanga Reed Dance

  • Colorful traditional reed dance ceremony
  • Young women gather to perform songs and dances
  • Historically to honor the Queen Mother
  • Channels national pride during independence

The Reed Dance serves as a showcase of Swazi culture on this patriotic holiday.

The Significance of the Reed Dance Tradition

The Umhlanga Reed Dance carries great cultural meaning:

  • Young, unmarried women participate to honor the Queen Mother
  • Channels innocence, moral virtue, strength
  • Women dress in traditional fibers, beads, skins
  • Carry and dance with long reed sticks
  • King may select new wife from dancers

Beyond Independence Day, it is an important rite of womanhood maintaining ancestral customs.

Conclusion

Swaziland Independence Day and the accompanying Reed Dance festival represent a national celebration of freedom, sovereignty, and cultural heritage for the Kingdom of Eswatini.

The holiday commemorates their emergence as a fully self-governing modern state after decades as a British colony. It also keeps alive Eswatini’s traditions, brought to the forefront during the historic 1968 independence celebrations.

For over 50 years, September 6th has marked a day of joy, patriotism, and reflection on past struggles to uphold Eswatini’s rightful autonomy. The vibrant displays of indigenous pride and identity on Independence Day express the Swazi’s enduring spirit as a nation.