Before the white settlers came, the De Kaap valley was virtually uninhabited in the summer months due to various diseases, such as malaria. The Swazi, part of the Nguni group and consists of three groups: viz the beSuthu sibbes, which is called emsKhandzambili and the Mdzabuko (original group), lived on the surrounding mountains.
The first Paramount Chief was Matalatala Dlamini. He was succeeded by Sobhuza 1 and Mswati or Mswazi, from whom the name Swazi was dirived. The majority live in the Republic of South Africa and here mainly in the districts of Barberton, Piet Retief, Ermelo, Carolina and Nelspruit.
They are governed by their paramount chief, Ngwenyama, which means- Lion – and his mother, iNdlovukati, which means – Elephant cow - in cooperation with the licoco – the wise man – of the tribe. The liblandla ( gerneral assembly), consisting of the minor chiefs and men of the tribe rule on the advice of the licoco.
The village (kraal) is governed by the umnumzane (village chief) who is the head of the family.
A traditional village takes the form of a horse shoe with the cattle kraal at the ends of the horse shoe. The wife has her living quarters (indlu-nkhulu) directly behind the cattle kraal. There is an open space between the chiefs headquarters and the back of the cattle kraal known as libala (yard). The other women and other members of the tribe build their huts around the chiefs wife’s hut.
A hut unit consists of a large hut (beehive type) and two smaller huts, (emadladla) with a reed shelter (liguma) around the huts.
There are laws governing marriage and the polygamous system (more than one wife) is custom.
The festival of the first fruits, (inkcala) plays an important part in the economy of the Swazi. They are agriculturists and cattle farmers. The women cultivate the fields while the men tend to the cattle.
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