Five years after Swaziland’s independence from the United Kingdom in 1968, King Sobhuza II, father of the present King Mswati III, abolished the British constitution. Since then the country has been ruled as an absolute monarchy, the last one in Africa.
After the revision of the traditional electoral system (tinkhundla) by King Mswati III, parliamentary elections were held for the first time in 1993. However, no political parties have been allowed to register up to this day. The king is the highest authority in the country as well as the chief of the Swazi people. His areas of responsibility include political issues, traditions and customs, as well as the management of crown land, which accounts for more than 60% of Swaziland’s surface area comprising 70% of the population.
In February 2006, a constitution guaranteeing freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, amongst others, came into effect. However, political parties remain illegal and therefore hardly play a role in elections. Continuing human rights violations as well as the situation of human rights defenders remain matters of concern. In terms of press freedom Swaziland ranks lowest within the SADC region (152 of 180 tested countries worldwide).
Relations between Austria and Swaziland are amicable. Swaziland has an honorary consulate in Vienna.
The opening of an Austrian honorary consulate in Swaziland is in the planning stages. State Secretary Hans Winkler visited Swaziland in April 2007. Swaziland supported the Austrian candidacy for a non permanent seat in the UN Security Council for the period 2009/2010.
Currently 36 Austrian expatriates are living in Swaziland (statistics Austrian Embassy Pretoria).
Austrian trade relations with Swaziland are modest and subject to fluctuations. In 2016, exports amounted to approximately € 0.22 million and imports to € 0.41 million.
In 2015, Austria’s ODA to Swaziland amounted to € 57.727,89. The Austrian NGO SOS Children's Villages runs children’s villages in Mbabane, Nhlangano and Siteki as well as a youth centre, two kindergartens and a social and health centre. In addition Swaziland benefits from regional projects of the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), such as the SADC Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (SACREEE), which is based in Windhoek, Namibia.
Swaziland is a member of UNESCO since 1968. The Swazi Ministry of Sports, Culture and Youth supports several cultural institutions as well as the well-known "Bushfire Festival”, which also attracts a large audience from South Africa every year. The Bushfire Festival has seen several Austrian musicians perform over the past few years, usually in conjunction with local musicians. In 2017, Austria was represented by the “Kids n Cats”.