The Kingdom of Swaziland is adjacent to South Africa. It is a small country and the only absolute monarchy left on the African continent. I arrived during Ncwala. Ncwala is an ancient, traditional Swazi ceremony which takes place annually. Six days of rituals symbolize thanksgiving. The King is the main actor. Thus, Ncwala is also called the ceremony of kingship. The Swazi and the Zulu are sub-tribes of the Nguni –or Ngoni- tribe. While other Nguni tribes celebrated the full rituals in the past, many no longer do so. For example , Lesotho home of the Sotho tribe, is a constitutional monarchy, but no longer celebrates Ncwala. The Swazi believe in an almighty being, called Mvelinchanti (vela – appear or come, nchanti – first.) The Swazi nation gathers during Ncwala to thank Mvelinchanti via their king. Everyone who attends the ceremony is expected to participate in the rhythm – chant and take part in the dance. Some Nguni tribe members in Zambia and Malawi still perform parts of the rituals primarily as a thanksgiving. You can get a taste of what the dancing and chanting looks like in this video.
Mswati III is the current king of Swaziland. The Swazi king inherits his position from his father. He is generally chosen among the younger sons, but no one knows who will succeed the father while he is still alive. The new king is chosen because of his mother. (The Swazi tradition is polygamy.) After the king dies, a group of representatives of the royal family / council meet and decide which queen will be the queen mother. The deciding factor is often the power of her family heritage. Her son then becomes king. The queen often becomes the queen regent, because her son as one of the younger sons of the deceased king is frequently too young to reign intially.
Political power lies with king. Some of the princes and blood relatives of the large, extended royal family have positions of power as well as the “tindvuna.” The tindvuna are commoners who rose up into the power elite. They can govern on behalf of the king. The kingship in Swaziland is well protected by power sharing mechanisms, not allowing kinsmen or tindvuna to become too powerful.