From Swaziland to eSwatini: the Story of the Kingdom's Name Change

Flag of Swaziland
Flag of Swaziland | © Public Domain Images / WikiCommons

On April 19, 2018, King Mswati III announced that the African nation of Swaziland would be renamed ‘the Kingdom of eSwatini’ during the country’s independence day celebrations. While the King had been referring to the country as the Kingdom of eSwatini for many years, the official name change came as something of a surprise.


The name eSwatini, which means ‘place of the Swati people’ in the local language siSwati, was used before the country was colonised by the British in 1906. Swaziland – which is situated between South Africa and Mozambique – was under British control for 66 years before becoming independent in 1968. Unlike other African countries, the tiny, landlocked nation did not change its name when it gained its independence from British colonial rule. The African countries that did change their names upon gaining independence include Botswana (previously Bechuanaland), Ghana (the Gold Coast), Lesotho (Basutoland), Malawi (Nyasaland) and Zimbabwe (Rhodesia).

eSwatini (Swaziland) is situated between South Africa and Mozambique

The King’s speech

Reaction to the change

While many people in the country have praised the return to the country’s siSwati name, the announcement hasn’t come without criticism. Human rights activist Thulani Maseko has challenged the name change in the High Court, saying it’s against the country’s constitution to change the name without public consultation and arguing it’s a waste of money. However, it’s unlikely this opposition will be successful because, as the country is the last absolute monarchy in Africa, the King of eSwatini has supreme, unrestricted power.

King Mswati III at the Umhlanga Reed Dance Festival 2018

The future

The process of adopting the new name across all platforms will include updating official documents, signage and paperwork, as well as name changes for the Royal Swaziland Police Service and the University of Swaziland – to name just a couple of institutions. The country’s constitution, which mentions the name Swaziland over 200 times, may have to be re-written entirely. Citizens’ passports, though, already mention the phrase ‘Kingdom of eSwatini’ along with the previous name of Swaziland, so may not need to be changed immediately.

The full roll-out is expected to take years, and it’s not yet clear how much it will cost. However, what is clear is that, unless the High Court overrules the decision, the new name is going to stick.

landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article