Oswald R. Swete, who appears to have been a British electrical engineer, published two papers on "A new electric miner's lamp" (1888) and "A new miner's electric safety lamp" (1890) in the Transactions of the Manchester Geological Society. By the beginnning of 1897 he was in Johannesburg, where he became a foundation member of the short-lived South African Society of Electrical Engineers (1897-1899). In May 1897 he was elected vice-president of the society's provisional committee, charged with formulating a constitution. At a meeting in August that year the committee was replaced by a new, expanded committee. At that same meeting Swete delivered the first paper before the society, on "The education of an electrical engineer". By January 1897 he was a member also of the Chemical and Metallurgical Society of South Africa, but his membership lapsed before September 1899.
In 1901 Swete resided in Natal, where he traded under the name Swete and Lyster. The firm was declared insolvent that year. In 1907 he worked for the Natal Phoenix Gold Mining Company, but two years later had been appointed manager of the Tugela Mine at Mfongosi, north of Kranskop.