The Church in Swaziland

The Church in Swaziland was an intergral part of the Diocese of Zululand. The Bishop usually visited Swaziland once a year to conduct confirmations. Local supervision and organization were left in the hands of local senior priests. There were four parishes-Ndlozana, Usuthu, Mbabane and Nkhaba. The parish of Mbabane catered for the white and colored communities only while the rest known as the “mission” looked after black communities.

Late in the 1950s the diocese of Zululand officially became known as the Diocese of Zululand and Swaziland. One of the diocesan synods which was attended by delegates from Zululand and inside Swaziland was held in Mbabane in 1958 – the first in the history of the diocese.

Since the creation of the boundary between South Africa and Swaziland in the 19th century, travelling between the two countries had been free. But in the early 1960s South Africa established control border posts and begun to demand valid travelling documents from everyone crossing the border to either country. Hence travelling across the border became restrictive and increasingly difficult. One day the Bishop Savage left Eshowe, the headquarters of his diocese, for Ndlozana where he was going to ordain two Swazi priests. He was travelling by a motor car. He had no travelling papers with him because it was just at the time the control border posts were beginning to function.

The officials at the entrance point refused to allow him through to Swaziland. So in order to get to holy Rood the Bishop had to leave his car at the border and walk it on the Transvaal side where the Mission was. The distance was about six miles to and from the mission. The Bishop was quietly reminded by the old residents of the area that the church contributed to the untenable situation because it did not object to the shifting of the fence to have the mission included in the Transvaal in 1894.

Thus the question of a separate diocese gained momentum and eventually a separate Synod that was attended entirely by the delegates from within Swaziland and presided over by the Bishop of Zululand and Swaziland was held in All Saints church in Mbabane, in March 1968. The synod passed a resolution to request the Metropolitan, the Archbishop of Cape Town, to permit the creation of a diocese of Swaziland. The time was very propitious because this country was moving towards political independence. The Archbishop, with the concurrence of other fifteen dioceses of the province accepted the request and there upon preparations for the formation of a diocese of Swaziland began.

The Most Rev. Selby Taylor, the Archbishop of Cape Town and the Metropolitan of the church, came to Swaziland early in 1968 to address a rally of the Anglicans in Swaziland. The venue of the rally was in Manzini. Here He told the Anglicans that the formation of a diocese of Swaziland has been decided and it was imminent and this, of course would entail more responsibility to the members of the Church not only to those in Swaziland alone but to the other Dioceses as well.
On July 1, 1968 the Diocese of Swaziland was created. Thereupon the Church in Swaziland became one of the Diocese of the Church of the Province of South Africa (today known as the Anglican Church of Southern Africa). At this time there were only seven parishes and 22 priests seven of whom were Swazis.

A meeting to elect a Bishop was held in Manzini in August 1968 when the Rev Anthony Hunter, the Vicar of Heddersfield, in the United Kingdom was elected the first Bishop of independent Swaziland. Bishop Hunter resigned in May 1975 and history was made on 18 July the same year when the first Swazi Bishop was elected. Venerable Bernad Lazarus Nyoni Mkhabela, Archdeacon of the eastern Swaziland was elected, much to the jubilation of 5000 members of the Church in Swaziland.