Why Swaziland is now 'Kingdom of eSwatini' + 13 countries that have been renamed

2018-04-24 10:30 - Kavitha Pillay
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Swaziland has changed its name to 'Kingdom of eSwatini'. (Photo: iStock)

Cape Town – In South Africa, the names of streets, public places and infrastructure and even cities have changed regularly - to the point where locals have lost track of keeping up in some parts.

While some renaming comes across as a waste of money, and people suggest that “better” things can be done with this money – such as donating it to the many deserving NGOs – other citizens see renaming as a massive step towards positive transformation that has social and political impact.

SEE: PICS: If country names were literal - this is what world maps would look like

After all, in the business world you wouldn’t deprive your company of displaying its identity through its branding, name and logo, and similarly, countries too need to show their complex identity, growth and transformation through names, flags, national anthems and symbols.

And while people continue to debate Julius Malema’s bold call on Cape Town to rename its airport honouring Winnie Madikizela-Mandela following her death, it’s no surprise when other countries such as Swaziland change its name altogether to mark significant transformation.

ALSO SEE: Name changes for 'offensive' streets in Western Cape on the cards

According to Huffington Post SA, King Mswati III of Swaziland changed the name of the country to “Kingdom of eSwatini” marking 50 years of independence from British rule.

Coinciding with his 50th birthday, msn reports that Africa’s last absolute monarch said that the name change - apart from celebrating an important milestone in history - also came about because people outside of Africa confused his country with Switzerland.

AFP reports some Swiss have responded with relief as the countries often are confused on online forms.

According to msn lifestyle there are some similarities between Switzerland and eSwatini, which means “the land of the Swazis,” as it is also landlocked and has some mountains, however “it’s much smaller”.

A landlocked country located on the eastern border of South Africa, eSwatini’s throne was inherited by King Mswati in 1986 from his father, Sobhuza II, who had reigned for 82 years, says msn.

SEE: 5 First impressions of Swaziland from a SA traveller

“Changing a country’s name comes with complications,” says msn, adding that changes will need to be made to the country’s money, government letterhead and official signage, vehicle license plates, uniforms of the military and national sports teams, among others. Even its airline, Swaziland Airlink, will have to be repainted.

The process has been criticised and the costs questioned as 63% of the 1.3 million population live below the national poverty line, according the World Food Programme - Swaziland's ministry of home affairs has reportedly said that the changing of the country’s name to the Kingdom of eSwatini "won't happen overnight".

Name changes around the world

Czech Republic, now officially known as Czechia since 2016, changed its name because “officials said having a one-word name would make it easier to promote its identity on the national stage”, says msn.

It adds that the Czech Republic is "relatively new, having come into existence with the Slovak Republic when Czechoslovakia broke in two in 1993".


SEE: Mauritius marks 50th year of independence in spectacular style

Cape Verde became “Cabo Verde” - meaning green cape - in 2013, which is the original name Portuguese sailors gave the islands in 1444.


Yugoslavia, which no longer exists, used to be called the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. It was renamed several times including Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929 it, Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia after World War II, and Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1963.

Msn says that following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia came apart in 1992, and today the territory is comprised of Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Macedonia, and Montenegro.


According to msn, the Democratic Republic of Congo has undergone numerous name changes, including being called the Congo Free State under the rule of King Leopold II of Belgium between 1885-1908.

“Later it became the Belgian Congo, then Congo-Leopoldville, and finally after its independence in 1960, the Republic of Congo,” says msn, adding that a few years later it was modified to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In 1971 the dictator Mobutu Sese Seko named it the Republic of Zaire, but after his fall, the name was changed back to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1997, says msn.


Huffington Post SA says that after gaining independence, countries such as Rhodesia became Zimbabwe, Nyasaland became Malawi, and Bechuanaland became Botswana. However, Swaziland did not change its name when it gained independence in 1968.

Msn shares some other countries that have had name changes that you may not know of:

  • Kingdom of Cambodia → Khmer Republic → Kampuchea → Cambodia (1991)
  • French Somaliland → Territory of the Afars and the Issas → Djibouti (1977)
  • Gilbert Islands → Kiribati (1979)
  • Portuguese Timor → East Timor → Timor-Leste (2002)
  • German Southwest Africa → Southwest Africa → Namibia (1990)
  • Upper Volta → Burkina Faso (1984)