A few more impressions after being here a few days -
Even the rural areas seem relatively affluent compared to rural South Africa. Much, I am sure, because of the low population here.
Large British influence here - Barclays bank, many ex-pats, Universal English, little or no Africaanse.
The government is a mess. The King, who did not like the last constitution, and so summarily dissolved the government and put together a ‘traditional’ system, that basically means he (and his mother) have complete power. There is a very slow process right now to design a new constitution - don’t hold your breath. Political parties are banned.
The present system rests all power with the King, and his mother. His many wives (he marries one per year at an annual ceremony) have to behave themselves, as he will choose one of them to be the new queen mum - she is usually one of the later, younger wives, with a single son - the new king.
Education is based on the British system, O levels and A levels. Primary school education costs R200 every year - steep, but manageable (compare R60 / year for South Africa). However, High school is R1000 minimum, up to R2000 in town. This basically puts it out of reach for the general population. Moreover, O level exams cost R673 per paper to take - ouch.
I am staying at “The Chillage”, a very nice backpackers in Mbabane.