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Author:       Manelisi Genge, gengeman@pilot.msu.edu
Title:        "Power and Gender in Southern African History: Power Relations in the Era of Queen Labotsibeni Gwamile Mdluli of Swaziland, 
              ca. 1875-1921"

Date: 1999 Institution: Michigan State University Advisor: Elizabeth A. Eldredge Degree: Ph.D.

Abstract

This dissertation examines the history of the Swazi leadership's dealing with the colonization of Swaziland by the governments of Great Britain and the Transvaal Boer Republic (South African Republic) from the 1880s to 1921. The first colonial power to establish its rule in Swaziland was the Transvaal with the help of the British from 1890 to 1899. However, the British did not allow the Transvaal to have an absolute colonial control on Swaziland. The British kept the Transvaal on check, both for the protection of British economic interests in Swaziland and for the preservation of the semi-autonomous status of the Swazi under a colonial rule. Thus, instead of an outright Boer colonial authority in Swaziland, the British and the Boer governments had entered into an intricate series of Conventions beginning from 1881 by which they pledged to safeguard the independence of the emaSwati.

The terms of the Conventions were exclusively initiated and finalized by the governments of Britain and the Transvaal (Anglo-Transvaal), and were only presented to the Swazi leaders as fait accompli. Therefore such Conventions formed the basis of what I term the hidden transcript of these powers in their dealings with the Swazi leaders. According to the arrangements of such Conventions the Transvaal government established a protectorate administration, itself an ambiguous colonial rule, over Swaziland, while Britain was on the sideline ready to call a foul anytime the Transvaal administrators transgressed the terms of the Conventions which created the latter's rule in the country.

The Boer administration was contested by Swazi leaders from its inception in 1890 until October 1899 when it ended with the outbreak of the South African War between the Boers and the British. From October 1889 when King Mbandzeni died, Swaziland was ruled by women leaders, Queen Regent Tibati Nkambule and Queen Mother Labotsibeni. Thus it was their leadership which resisted colonialism. Labotsibeni had a long history of involvement in Swazi politics since the days of her husband, King Mbandzeni, who consulted her on important state affairs. From 1895 to 1899 Labotsibeni ruled the emaSwati as co-leader with her son Paramount Chief Bhunu. Bhunu died in 1899. From 1899 to 1921 Labotsibeni became the sole leader of the emaSwati in her capacity as the Queen Regent.

After the South African War the British established their colonial rule in Swaziland in August 1902. From August 1902 to 1921 Labotsibeni devoted her energy challenging the British colonial state on various issues ranging from land to legal jurisdiction over the emaSwati. In this dissertation I explore some of her encounters with the Boer and British colonial regimes. The power relations I deal with in this work were triangular: Swazi-British-Boers. However, after the war in 1902 the power relations became bipolar, i.e., Swazi leaders versus the British colonial state. In this study I have shown that Swazi royal women have played significant and multifaceted roles in Swazi politics than they are appreciated in the existing historiography of Swaziland.


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