Swaziland. New figures during the year showed that Swaziland’s population decreased by about one-fifth to one million since the last census in 1997. The cause was the severe HIV epidemic. Swaziland has the world’s highest proportion of HIV-infected among the entire population, 26 percent. The prediction is that two-thirds of the country’s 15-year-olds will die from AIDS unless the spread of infection is slowed.
In August, more than 1,500 HIV-infected women staged a protest demonstration against eight of King Mswati’s thirteen wives traveling with a companion for a costly shopping trip abroad. The women condemned how tax money from one of the world’s poorest and sickest people was used.
The shopping trip took place prior to the celebration of the country’s 40-year independence in September, which became an orgy in luxury for an estimated equivalent of about SEK 80 million.
The monarchy dissolved the parliament for the September elections. Political parties were banned and only individual candidates were allowed to stand.
- ABBREVIATIONFINDER: Click to see the meanings of 2-letter acronym and abbreviation of WZ in general and in geography as Swaziland in particular.
The election was surrounded by protests from unions and banned opposition parties that demanded democracy with multi-party systems. The election was described by government critics as meaningless and even worse than in Zimbabwe, as all parties were banned. Police arrested Democratic activists who were planning a protest block near the border with South Africa.
On election day, polling stations were guarded by armed police. Voting was reported to be higher in rural areas, where the king is more popular, than in cities where the banned opposition has its strongest support. The banned opposition movement PUDEMO (People’s United Democratic Movement) described the election as a shame and an attempt to mislead international opinion.
After the election, Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini was appointed new Prime Minister. The opposition considered that Dlamini had been appointed for his loyalty to the king and accused him of failing to rule out the rule of law during his first term as head of government.
Shortly after the election, a failed bomb attack was carried out at one of King Mswati’s palace outside the capital Mbabane. A Swazi activist and an activist from South Africa were killed when they placed the bomb. According to the government, PUDEMO had said it was behind the attempted attack. PUDEMO leader Mario Masuko was arrested and the first to be prosecuted under a new anti-terror law that could provide 25 years in prison. Authorities claimed that other bombs were found near railroads, bridges and roads. According to the opposition, the attempted assault was a result of widespread frustration over the ban on political parties.
According to Countryaah reports, the population of Swaziland in 2008 was 1,064,726, ranking number 158 in the world. The population growth rate was 0.660% yearly, and the population density was 61.9091 people per km2.