Neighbouring States

Mozambique, Angola, Swaziland, Lesotho, and Botswana

The presence of a sparkling blue public swimming pool is evidence of high functioning society. Expertise in engineering, chemistry, and efficient management of public funds are required to create and maintain municipal swimming pools. Europeans imported such knowledge to their colonies, evidenced by the numerous swimming pools they created and maintained. When facility management was taken over by unqualified persons, the pools fell into disrepair and became derelict. Today these dead pools are littered across the landscape.


Despite the presence of swimming pools in many towns in the neighbouring states, little organised aquatic sports activity existed in Swaziland, Botswana, and Lesotho until recently. Mozambique and Angola were technically provinces of Portugal, so they had a thriving aquatic sports scene, but there was little official sporting contact with South Africa. After independence removed European control from the government in all of these states, the swimming pools and their associated activities were soon derelict. The knowledge and skill, or the political will and commitment required to maintain them, had been lost, until recently. 

From 1964 South African athletes were barred from participation in international aquatic events such as the Olympic Games, although many tours still took place, both to and from the Republic. With the reintegration of South Africa into cultural activities in the African sub-continent since 1994, swimming has once again become a feature of the sporting scene in some of the neighbouring countries.

South Africa has participated in the All-Africa Games since 1991, hosting the event in Johannesburg in 1998. The Confederation Africaine de Natation (the African Swimming Confederation or CANA) was founded in 1970, with 7 members. By 2008 it had 43 members, with its Zone 4 Zone comprising Angola, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. CANA events are held in all of the member states, many of which built 50m Olympic size swimming pools, especially for these competitions.

While the first two countries were Portuguese colonial assets, the other three were former British territories or protectorates.

Portuguese colonies were developed by large private companies, while the British territories were run by the government with a strong missionary influence in the development of schools, which often built swimming pools.

Mozambique was a popular holiday destination for South Africans and Rhodesians until it became independent from Portugal in 1976. Sporting contacts were unofficial and limited due to the international boycott against athletes from those countries, but nevertheless, some sporting contact did occur. 

Colonial administrations in Africa built recreational facilities for their employees, including swimming pools. Municipal, school, and club pools were common, and swimming was a popular sport in all areas, such as the Desportivo Club in Lourenço Marques. Today few of these facilities still exist in any of the former colonies, with little evidence of their existence left, except in photographs sometimes available online. 

While Portuguese colonies were administered as an integral part of Portugal itself, British Protectorates were very different. The Portuguese created local sports leagues and traveled to the home country to compete. The European influence on the indigenous populations in Swaziland, Lesotho, and Botswana was minimal and left little trace after independence. 

The history of competitive aquatic sports in Mozambique is sparsely reported, mostly on the Delagoa Bay blog site.

Mozambique and Angola

Laying on the eastern border of South Africa, Mozambique was a popular tourist destination for South Africans and Rhodesians, who traveled down the main road from Umtali to Beira. Angola was less accessible from South Africa, but still a part of international swimming until 1976. In 1973 the SA Schools swimming team was due to compete in Angola before the trip was cancelled.

Nampula - 1960. A typical Mozambican colonial town scene.

Swaziland, Lesotho and Botswana

These territories are all former British protectorates, created to block the expansion of the Transvaal. The Europeans built schools for their children, which often included swimming pools, and towns developed their own municipal recreational facilities, although never in the methodical way that the Portuguese built pools in thein colonial settlements.

St Mark's School, Mbabane, Swaziland

 was founded in 1908, for the children of European settlers. The swimming pool has regressed to the sad state it is today.