Birthday: July 22, 1899
Died At Age: 83
Sun Sign: Cancer
Also Known As: Ngwenyama
Born Country: South Africa
Born in: Zombodze, Swaziland
Famous as: Former King of Swaziland
Emperors & Kings
Black Emperors & Kings
Spouse/Ex-: Dzeliwe of Eswatini (m. ? – 1982), Ntfombi of Eswatini (m. ? – 1982)
father: Ngwane V
mother: Lomawa Ndwandwe
children: MaNtofombi Dlamini, Mswati III, Tsandzile Dlamini
Died on: August 21, 1982
place of death: Mbabane, Swaziland
Who was Sobhuza II?
King Sobhuza II of Swaziland was one of the longest reigning kings in the recorded history. Crowned to the throne of Swaziland when he was barely four months old, he ruled for 82 years 254 days until his death in 1982. But because Swaziland was initially a British Protectorate, in the beginning he was designated as a Paramount Chief, spending his first twenty-one years under the regency of his grandmother, receiving formal education both in Swaziland and South Africa. On becoming the chief, his first job was to retrieve the Swazi land held by the white settlers and in this he was partially successful. Later, he steered his country towards full independence from British rule without spilling blood, eventually succeeding in his mission in 1968. Initially coronated as a constitutional king, he later seized full power and steered his country towards a tribal mode of rule that was compatible with modern form of governance.
Childhood & Early Life
Sobhuza II was born on 22 July 1899 at the Royal Residence in Zombodze, located in the Kingdom of Eswatini, at that time known as Swaziland. Born into the House of Dlamini, his birth name was Nkhotfotjeni (Stone Lizard). His grandmother called him Mona (Jealousy).
His father, Ngwane V, also known as Mahlokohla, Bhunu, Hhili, was the King of Swaziland from 1895 until his death in 1899. His mother, Lomawa Ndwandwe, was his father’s chief wife and he was their only child.
Through his stepmother, Nukwase Ndwandwe, who was also his maternal aunt, he had two half-brothers called Princes Mkukwane and Mshengu and two half-sisters. Those apart, he possibly had many other half-siblings born out of his father’s other marriages.
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On 10 December 1899, when Nkhotfotjeni was four months old, his father, King Ngwane V, died while dancing at the yearly incwala (first fruit) ceremony. Shortly thereafter, the royal council declared four months old Nkhotfotjeni the new King.
The Council also named him as King Sobhuza II after his great-great-grandfather Sobhuza I, the founder the Swazi nation. Since he was still an infant, his grandmother, Labotsibeni Mdluli, became his regent. In this, she was helped by her third son, Prince Malunge.
Since his mother, Lomawa Ndwandwe, was in mourning, the tradition demanded that the young king be separated from her. Accordingly, he was sent to her mother’s paternal home in Zikhotheni, where he lived for one year before returning home sometime in late 1900 or early 1901.
Since the Second Boer War (1899-1902) was going on, he could not be brought back to Zombodze. Instead the mother and son spent some time in Lobamba before returning to Zombodze. Meanwhile, a lot of political changes started taking place in the country.
In 1903, Swaziland was made a British protectorate and the administration of the area was transferred to the British High Commissioner in 1907. In the following year, two-thirds of the total land was ceded to European settlers, from where local people were evicted.
Queen Regent, Labotsibeni Mdluli, realized to win back the land, the next leader should become familiar with the European ways and thoughts. Therefore, she established Swaziland’s first school, especially for her grandson, Sobhuza, bringing in teachers from South America.
Sobhuza began his education at Zombodze Primary School. Later, he moved to Swazi National School, also located in Zombodze. Here he studied until 1916, when he entered Lovedale Missionary Institute located in Cape Province, South Africa, completing his secondary education from there in 1918.
Paramount Chief of Swazi
On 22 December 1921, the Queen Regent, Labotsibeni Mdluli, handed over her charge, installing Sobhuza II as the ruler of Swaziland. He was now known to his subjects as the Ngwenyama Sobhuza II. However, the British refused to acknowledge him so, designating him only as a Paramount Chief.
Sobhuza’s main task after ascending the throne was to recoup the land from British settlers. In 1922, he traveled to Great Britain accompanied by Swazi delegates. There, he met King George V and petitioned before the Privy Council for restoring the Swazi land. As expected, he was outrightly refused.
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Undeterred, he continued to press for his demand for 15 long years. Eventually, the British administration agreed to restore some land to the Swazi people, as a result of which Swazi landholding increased from 37% to slightly more that 50%.
Concurrently with struggling to restore the Swazi land, he began to take other measures, establishing Swazi Commercial Amadoda in 1923, which would grant license to small businesses on the Swazi reserves. In addition, he also established the Swazi National School to counter the influence of missionary indoctrination.
During the Second World War, Sobhuza II was declared the ‘native authority’ within Swaziland, which greatly boosted his status and power. As time passed, his stature began to grow, which helped him to resist the British plan of incorporating Swaziland into the Union of South Africa.
He also kept a close watch on countries that were being granted independence from colonial rules, making sure Swaziland was saved from the turmoil that they faced while securing independence. Concurrently, he also played a prominent part in securing his country’s independence, showing a great political wisdom during this period.
In 1964, he formed a political party called Imbokodvo National Movement through Swazi National Council in order to bypass Westminster constitution proposed by the British, winning all seats in the 1967 pre-independence elections through it. Also, in 1967, he was recognized by the British as King of Swaziland.
King of Swaziland
On 6 September 1968, Swaziland was declared an independent country with an elected legislature and limited monarchy. As a constitutional monarch, Sobhuza skillfully blended the tribal customs with economic and social changes, all the while secretly raising and equipping a private army.
On 12 April 1973, he dissolved the legislature. He also repealed the constitution and banned political parties, assuming supreme power for himself. Soon, he started steering the country towards a tribal mode of rule.
In 1979, he established a new parliament (Libandla), which had eighty members chosen from forty local councils known as tinkhundla. However, the parliament, which was dominated by tribal elements, had merely an advisory role.
As the supreme ruler, he soon started bringing in vast stretches of land, which was hitherto held by non-Swazis, under Swazi control. Under his leadership the economy started improving.
He was equally conscious about the importance of having strong relations with other countries. Under his leadership, Swaziland joined the United Nations, Non-Aligned Movement and Organisation of African Unity. The country set up diplomatic missions in other counties.
Personal Life & Legacy
According to the Swaziland National Trust Commission, King Sobhuza II married 70 wives, the chief among them being Dzeliwe Shongwe and Ntfombi Tfwala. His so many marriages helped to unite all the important families and bind the nation together.
From his 70 wives, he had 210 children, 180 of whom survived infancy and 97 were reported living as of 2000. Notable among them were Prince Makhosetive Dlamini and Prince Khuzulwandle Dlamini.
King Sobhuza II died on 21 August 1982 at Mbabane, Swaziland. He was then eighty-three years old and was succeeded by Prince Makhosetive Dlamini, son of Queen Ntfombi Tfwala.