Comments on the constitutional protection of religion in Swaziland

20 August 2009

Comparable to the South African legal system, the Swazi legal system has the characteristics of a dual legal system. Though the common law of Swaziland is Roman-Dutch law, Swazi customary law has a firm hold in the Swazi legal system. With a population in the region of 1,2 million, made up of different religious denominations, religion in Swaziland is an important matter. Although Christianity is the majority religion in Swaziland, there has generally been freedom of religion from an early stage. This was recently confirmed in the Constitution of the Kingdom of Swaziland Act 1 of 2005, which came into operation on 8 February 2006. The focus of this presentation is on the fairly new constitutional provisions dealing with freedom of religion in Swaziland. The first part of this contribution consists of a general discussion dealing with the commonalities of and interaction between the South African and Swazi legal systems, as well as certain key elements in the making of the Swazi Constitution. The second part deals with specific constitutional provisions pertaining to religion in general and freedom of religion in particular. The contribution concludes with a few comments on the role the South African constitutional jurisprudence has to play in future Swazi constitutional adjudication.