The largest ethnic group in Swaziland is the Swazi. The Swazi people, whom Muhle identifies with, are descendants of a larger group called Nguni. The Swazi, and other ethnic groups in Africa whose members are predominantly black, make up the majority of their country’s population but they are still discriminated against by the significantly smaller white African populations. Muhle cited the conflict between the white Africans and the black Swazis in Swaziland as the main ethnic conflict in his country.
While the Swazi group is derived from Swaziland, today many Swazi’s live in bordering South Africa. Likewise, there is a small population of “white South Africans” who have recently moved from South Africa into Swaziland. The white South Africans are openly prejudice towards the black Swazis and have “issues” when interacting with them. For example, white South Africans do not allow their children to “bring over their black friends” and do not “want their daughter to date black boys.” I asked Muhle if the South Africans’ racist views and practices affected their relationship with South Africa and he immediately shook his head, “they have all the better stuff!”
Because Swaziland enjoys their relationship with South Africa and its resources, the black Swazis do not address the issue of racism between the two groups. It is interesting to me that even though the white citizens in South Africa and Swaziland are significantly outnumbered in population, they still feel superior to the black Swazis.
Like the white South Africans, white people from Swaziland are also discriminatory toward the black Swazis but it is less severe. Muhle told me that in Swaziland the Swazis are “racist toward each other.” For example, if a white Swazi was to walk into a government office they would be “treated with more respect” than a black person would. Social interactions like this example are the extent of discrimination between the Swazis. There are hardly any hate crimes or violence involving race in Swaziland.
While Swaziland currently resembles the United States’ race relations in the 1960s and 70s, unlike the United States during that time period, there is hardly any violence. I believe that this is because while the white Swazis and South Africans feel superior to the black Swazis, they are inferior in size. Unlike the United States, the white African’s population restricts them from establishing segregation laws and practices. While the disparity between the two populations protect the black Swazi people, Swaziland’s dependence on South Africa will prevent Swaziland from addressing the racial problems between the two countries.