|The Development of Mbabane
|Until the late
1970s, little development had taken place in the town which, in 1992, was declared a
city by King Mswati III. The major residential areas were close to the city centre and
there were few houses in the suburbs such as Dalriach and Tembelishle. However, all that
changed during the past two decades and people who have not visited for several years are
astonished at the extent of suburban growth. What were previously rolling hills and treed
expanses are now residential areas of high quality homes and offering a generally modern
and affluent life style.
Among the earlier residences were the three government houses along
Gilfillan Street from the corner of Scott Street. Erected during the second world war,
they enjoy the distinction of being the first double-story houses in Mbabane built of
concrete blocks and they, as well as the adjacent bus stop, were known as
"concretia". That land had previously formed part of the first golf course and
later a rugby field. There were no other houses in the vicinity and the whole area, which
is now the oldest residential suburb of Mbabane, was described as velt land.
Indeed, on 13 October 1967, according to City Council records, the
authors own home on Schoch Street was approved for construction (under the name of
H.C. Noddeboe) - at a cost of E8,800.00!
While many of the streets in old Mbabane are named after prominent
people such as Resident Commissioners, others take their names from land surveyors who
worked in the vicinity.
Closer to the city centre along Johnston Street are three small houses,
one of which is now home to the Indingilizi Art Gallery, which have an interesting
history. They were built in 1946/7 by an unknown benefactor to house Jewish refugees who
had arrived from Germany in 1939 and initially had to live in tin shacks. Some of these
people, including Marcia Skuy, Reggi Goldblatt and Josef Hamburger, still live in Mbabane
today. Mrs. Goldblatt recalls that up to four families had to share a house and some of
the refugees were employed at Mr. Tanchums clothing factory which was located
further down the same road where the Lighthouse, a Christian refuge for street children,
During the mid 1970s, Swazilands first shopping precinct,
the Swazi Plaza, was developed. Over the years this has been extended several times. In
1989, a second shopping precinct, The Mall, was developed and a few years later The New
Mall was erected next to it, just on the other side of the Mbabane River. Both precincts
provide office space and the three commercial banks have their head quarters within the
The Mbabane bus rank and street vendors
It has been recorded that every hour, 12,000 pedestrians pass into the shopping areas from
the adjacent bus rank, while 6,000 vehicles enter and leave the city centre each day.
The majority of activity has thus moved away from Allister Miller Street in the city
While the Central Bank of Swazilands eight-story building was once the most
prominent landmark and Mbabane House was considered the most modern office block, others
have since been erected which have changed the face of the city. These include the Chinese
Embassy which provides an Oriental touch and Dhlanubeka House, both built in the mid
1980s, and Mbandzeni Building and Mona Flats at the edge of the Western Distributor
Road. Mona is now the highest building in the city. In 1999 the extensive MTN Office Park
was completed on the site of the old Tavern Hotel entailing yet another change to the
citys face. While these are the most prominent developments, others have also taken
place, including office parks and the imposing new Swazi Delta building, which houses the
General Motors dealership, at the edge of the Mbabane Industrial Site.
In 1978 the Sidwashini Industrial Area to the west of the city was
barely developed. Today this has grown to accommodate thriving light industries and other
The road network has also been expanded and future plans include a ring
road to relieve congestion within the city. Today, there are 51 km. of gravel and 91 km.
of tarred road in the Mbabane urban area. This is a substantial improvement considering
that in 1962, the only stretch of tar in the whole of Swaziland was 200 meters along
Allister Miller Street from the now Standard Bank to the Gilfillan Street junction.
The recorded population of 23,019 people in 1976 had grown to 58,063 by 1996, almost
doubling every 10 years. Projected growth for the next 10 years is 42%. This is clearly a
significant factor when planning for future growth and development, bearing in mind
increased demand for goods, services and accommodation. The City Council also serves an
additional 103,000 people in the surrounding areas.
Thus commercial investment in Mbabane is considered viable, as the following figures will
For the period 1994-1998, the City Council considered a yearly average of E34 million
worth of new development - E11 million more than the current annual budget. 1997 was a
particularly good year with E40.676 million worth of new development - almost double the
annual budget. While development in 1998 was just E26,081 million, this is still in excess
of the annual budget.
From 1994 until 1998 the value of development in the city was $ US 12,327 million.
Because of Mbabanes mountainous terrain, there is no great advantage in
establishing heavy industries, particularly given the proximity of Matsapha, the
countrys main industrial area. Only light industrial development is feasible and
pollutant operations are not encouraged in Mbabane. The two small industrial areas
adjacent to the city comprise such industries as publishing, plant assembly, motor
mechanics and warehousing.
Mbabanes close proximity to other major urban centres, both
within and outside Swaziland through excellent transport networks, provides opportunities
for companies involved in the distribution of goods. The nearest sea ports are Maputo in
Mozambique and Richards Bay in South Africa while the nearest railway station and
international airport are at Matsapha, 30 km. from the city.
Other areas for investment opportunities are for quality hotels, and in
the entertainment and related industries. There are presently very few outlets in this
category although there is high demand for such facilities.
Three commercial banks operate in Mbabane where their respective headquarters are also
located. These are First National Bank, Nedbank and Standard bank. All Three are
represented throughout the country and offer the gamut of services for both corporate and
private clients. The parastatal Swaziland Development and Savings Bank provides for the
agricultural sector while the Swaziland Building Society (scheduled to become a bank)
deals with mortgage finance.
National Bank began operating in Swaziland in 1995 and today provides a diversity of
products, including card-based savings schemes, home loans and general banking services,
as well as specials products such as Status and Premier accounts for high achievers. The
Wesbank division provides competitive leasing and hire purchase facilities and is a key
provider of asset based finance. FNB operates a main branch and a service branch in
The Central Bank of Swaziland, Mbabane
The year 2000 marks the third year of
Nedbanks presence in Swaziland, during which time it has introduced its new
corporate image and unveiled its mission statement. Changes during the period were
primarily aimed at strategically refocusing the bank for growth and aligning its culture
and values to the aspirations of the shareholders. Nedbanks Mbabane branch and head
office are housed at the modern Nedbank Centre, together with the human resources
department and training centre. Nedbank continues to consolidate its business operations
and is strategically growing its market share in Swaziland.
Standard Bank has the largest representation in the country, having
acquired the assets of Barclays Bank of Swaziland in 1997. Changes which took place under
the new structure included decentralising the business unit from the head office to three
branches, including Mbabane. The bank, which is a members of the Standard Bank Group of
South Africa, has two branches in Mbabane and offers true international banking and
technological innovation. It was the first local bank to expand international
communications by joining SWIFT - Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial
The Sporting Life
For many years the Prince of Wales Oval, which is common ground, has formed the
nucleus of sporting events in Mbabane. School sports days are frequently held there and at
weekends, it is the venue for the ever popular game of soccer.Across the road are the
municipal tennis and squash courts at Coronation Park and in between is the Mbabane Club,
popular with Swazis and expatriates alike and where diverse sporting facilities are
Soccer match at The Oval - photo
courtesy Times of Swaziland
The nearby golf club, which was opened
in 1949, dates back to 1946 when the new Resident Commissioner E.B. "Ted"
Beetham expressed shock at the lack of such a facility, vowing to "soon fix
that". However, golf was first played in Mbabane - and in Swaziland - in around 1923
on a course in the vicinity of Scott and Muir Streets. This comprised "greens"
of stamped earth and short veld grass and was later destined to become a rugby field until
the land was given over to housing.
Cricket, was started in Mbabane by the Resident Commissioner A.G.
Marwick and Mr. W.A. Morris who were responsible for creating the Oval. Regular matches
started in 1910 and the game remained popular until the 1980s, to be revived again
during recent years.
Squash, tennis and bowls are among the other popular sports and rugby
which, like cricket tended to decline in the 1980s, has also enjoyed a revival.
Theatre and Entertainment
Theatre in Swaziland was born of the old Mbabane Dramatic Society in the late
1920s. Until the second world war, productions were held in what is now the
Department of Labour or in the old Central Hotel. When the Mbabane Club opened in 1947,
the Dramatic Society became one of its sections until 1953 when it moved to the new
Queensway Theatre (now Cinelux). This provided such luxuries as a permanent stage, a
lighting box and dressing rooms and was the scene of many quality productions. The concept
of the Swaziland Theatre Club in Johnson Street was born in 1964 and the theatre was
erected in 1968. During over 30 ensuing years, productions of all types have been staged
by the Mbabane community as well as by visiting companies - both professional and amateur.
These include drama, comedy, musicals and concerts. The Swaziland Theatre Club continues
to provide a venue for the dramatic arts, making Mbabane the centre for such activities in
There are numerous video rental outlets for home entertainment but only
one cinema in the city. The government-run local TV and radio stations are based in
There are only two hotels in Mbabane which provide accommodation,
restaurants and conference facilities, as well as a number of other restaurants and fast
food outlets. As already noted, investment opportunities exist in this sector particularly
for quality facilities.
The Siyavuka Festival
This arts event was started in 1998 by a group of far-sighted and dedicated people using
Mbabane as a venue. The diversity of attractions included musicians who performed at the
Prince of Wales Oval, artists and craftsmen and a wide range of other talents. Input was
from both local and visiting artists and it is planned to make the Siyavuka Festival and
annual event during August.
There are more than 15 primary and high schools in Mbabane which are run by
government, private organisations or missions. Among these is an SOS International School
which, among others, provides for underprivileged or orphaned children with education and
a home environment. There are also several nursery and pre-schools. Also located in
Mbabane are the Institute of Health Sciences which is a campus of
Primary School children, Mbabane
the University of Swaziland, the
Swaziland College of Technology, and a special school for handicapped children.
Other educational centres include private training institutes, the
British Council and the American Information Centre. The head office and main branch of
the Government library is also in the city.
Waterford Kamhlaba School
Waterford is an independent coeducational secondary school of multi-faceted leanings.
It was founded as Waterford School in 1963 and was given the additional name by King
Sobhuza II in 1967. He meant both "of the world" - a world in miniature - and
"of the earth" - without racial or religious distinctions.Waterford became a
full member of the United World Colleges movement in 1981.
Part of the Warterford campus
There are 10 UWCs throughout the world,
all committed to the highest academic standards and the promotion of international
understanding by bringing together students from a diversity of nationalities and social
Waterford offers a five year programme leading to the International
GCSE, followed by two years leading to the International Baccalaureate which allows entry
to most universities in the world and advanced placement in some.
Apart from the wide academic curriculum, students are presented with
many opportunities to develop personally and socially through community service, student
government, sport and a wide range of extra curricula clubs and interest groups.
In 1999 the college had 475 students of over 50 nationalities and 45
staff representing 16 nationalities. It is a secondary school of choice for those seeking
a truly international education in a southern African context.
The Mbabane Government Hospital is the largest and busiest centre of its type in the
country, receiving up to 400 patients each day. Other health facilities include the
Salvation Army Clinic at the populous suburb of Msunduza and The Clinic which is a private
hospital. Dental services are readily available. Numerous private practitioners offer
diverse specialties to the community.
The Swaziland Posts and Telecommunications Corporation, which employs over 800 people,
has been a body corporate since 1983. SPTC is involved with the supply of postal and
telecommunications services in Swaziland and also functions as a regulator for
telecommunication operations in the country. Services include telephone and data lines,
PABXs and postal services for businesses, government and individuals, utilising
specialised equipment which includes digital exchanges and a satellite earth station.
Developments during 1999 include the commissioning of three new
exchanges: Siphocosini, Mahwalawa and Mahamba. STBCs Y2K Project Office is
responsible for coordinating the upgrading of machinery in readiness for the year 2000.
This includes stamps used by the postal division as well as all computer operated
equipment and telephone application forms.
The Cellular Network
This facility, which is run by MTN in Swaziland, was introduced at the end of 1998 and is
a popular and convenient means of communication. MTN is based in Mbabane and provides a
reliable service in all the main centres as well as selected rural locations where large
agricultural estates operate.
Mbabane is fully electrified with the exception of some homes in the peri-urban area. This
service is provided by the Swaziland Electricity Board which has its head office in
Mbabane. The Water Services Corporation, also based in Mbabane, is responsible for the
urban water supply. All homes have direct supplies or access through communal supplies in
the peri-urban areas. The Urban Development Project will address the issues of
electrification and improved water supplies to such areas.
The majority of citizens utilise public transport, which is owned by private
operators, mostly in the form of buses. However, taxis are also well utilized. As well as
operating between suburbs, the transport services link centres throughout the country.
The urban development project
Mbabane will benefit from this major undertaking, which falls under the Ministry of
Housing and Urban Development, and is scheduled for completion in 2006. It entails a World
Bank loan totaling E400 million over three phases for the improvement of urban
infrastructure and the provision of quality low-cost housing. The upgrading of existing
housing will also be carried out. It is expected that 100,000 people in the
Mbabane/Manzini corridor - some 10% of the population - will benefit from the project.
Apart from the two main complexes, the Swazi Plaza and The Mall, there are a number of
smaller shopping centres within and around the city. Most goods and services are
Some Mbabane businesses
Situated in a charming historical cottage on Johnstone Street, Indingilizi has been a
centre for art in Swaziland since 1982, providing a high standard of excellence of both
art and crafts by local and international artists. Regular exhibitions are well supported
by enthusiastic clients who often meet with the artists in the adjoining Courtyard
restaurant where ideas and opinions are shared in a lively ambiance.
Swaziland serves a diversity of clients throughout the country, including hotels, pubs
and clubs, multiple dwellings and individual residences. Installations are carried out at
highly competitive prices and full back-up service and problem solving is provided.
Subscribers receive a monthly magazine containing full details of available programmes.
DSTV enables viewers to tune into a vast selection of channels, including M. Net and the
United Kingdoms Sky News.
Radio Link Security
is part of the Secure Holdings Group which was founded in 1982 and comprises companies
which between them offer a comprehensive security service. Radio Link installs and
monitors quality alarms for residential, commercial and industrial premises and also
supplies access control and surveillance systems. It also installs digital and analogue TV
systems and stocks cell phone accessories. It serves the whole country and has depots in
Mbabane, Manzini and Matsapha.The highly trained technical staff receive frequent
specialised training to keep them up to date with the ever-changing technology employed in
the security and communications industries.
Swazi Delta dates back to 1908 when the firm was founded by the same family which owns
it today and it is the only privately owned operation of its kind in the country. The
present name was adopted in 1992 to identify with the Delta Motor Corporation which is the
main supplier and during the same year, a second branch was opened in Manzini. The
dealership supplies Opel, Isuzu and Suzuki passenger and commercial vehicles and run a
full workshop and spares department.
During 1997 the company acquired a substantial piece of land at the
edge of the Mbabane industrial site which was subsequently developed in three phases with
an impressive E7 million building. Since the end of 1998 this has housed the whole
operation which includes the workshop, spares department and a showroom as well as a
Swazi Delta enjoys a major share of Swazilands vehicle market.