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total: 30,355 sq km
land: 30,355 sq km
water: 0 sq km
border countries (1):
South Africa 1,106 km
0 km (landlocked)
cool to cold, dry winters;
hot, wet summers
mostly highland with plateaus, hills, and mountains
mean elevation: 2,161 m
elevation extremes: lowest point: junction of the Orange and Makhaleng Rivers 1,400 m
highest point: Thabana Ntlenyana 3,482 m
water, agricultural and grazing land, diamonds, sand, clay, building stone
agricultural land: 76.1%
arable land 10.1%; permanent crops 0.1%; permanent pasture 65.9%
other: 22.4% (2011 est.)
30 sq km (2012)
Population – distribution:
relatively higher population density in the western half of the nation, with the capital of Maseru, and the smaller cities of Mafeteng, Teyateyaneng, and Leribe attracting the most people
People and Society
Lesotho has a population of approximately 1,958,042. The population distribution of Lesotho is 25 percent urban and 75 percent rural. However, it is estimated that the annual increase in the urban population is 3.5 percent. Population density is lower in the highlands than in the western lowlands. Although the majority of the population—60.2 percent—is between 15 and 64 years of age, Lesotho has a substantial youth population numbering around 34.8 percent.
Lesotho faces great socioeconomic challenges. More than half of its population lives below the property line, and the country’s HIV/AIDS prevalence rate is the second highest in the world. In addition, Lesotho is a small, mountainous, landlocked country with a little arable land, leaving its population vulnerable to food shortages and reliant on remittances. Lesotho’s persistently high infant, child, and maternal mortality rates have been increasing during the last decade, according to the last two Demographic and Health Surveys. Despite these significant shortcomings, Lesotho has made good progress in education; it is on track to achieve universal primary education and has one of the highest adult literacy rates in Africa.
Lesotho’s migration history is linked to its unique geography; it is surrounded by South Africa with which it shares linguistic and cultural traits. Lesotho at one time had more of its workforce employed outside its borders than any other country. Today remittances equal about 17% of its GDP. With few job options at home, a high rate of poverty, and higher wages available across the border, labor migration to South Africa replaced agriculture as the prevailing Basotho source of income decades ago. The majority of Basotho migrants were single men contracted to work as gold miners in South Africa. However, migration trends changed in the 1990s, and fewer men found mining jobs in South Africa because of declining gold prices, stricter immigration policies, and a preference for South African workers.
Although men still dominate cross-border labor migration, more women are working in South Africa, mostly as domestics, because they are widows or their husbands are unemployed. Internal rural-urban flows have also become more frequent, with more women migrating within the country to take up jobs in the garment industry or moving to care for loved ones with HIV/AIDS. Lesotho’s small population of immigrants is increasingly composed of Taiwanese and Chinese migrants who are involved in the textile industry and small retail businesses.
Mosotho (singular), Basotho (plural)
Sotho 99.7%, Europeans, Asians, and other 0.3%
Sesotho (official) (southern Sotho), English (official), Zulu, Xhosa
Christian 80%, indigenous beliefs 20%
Ethnicity, Language, and Religion
Due to Lesotho’s long history as a unified nation, that continued even through British colonial rule, the ethnic makeup of the country is very homogeneous. Lesotho’s ethno-linguistic structure consists almost entirely of the Basotho (singular Mosotho), a Bantu-speaking people: an estimate of 99.7 percent of the people identify as Basotho. The Kwena (Bakoena) are the largest subgroup of the Sotho; The Sotho (also known as Basotho) form the overwhelming majority of the country’s population. They were originally united by a common loyalty to the royal house of Moshoeshoe I, who founded the Sotho nation in the 19th century. Internally, divisions between different chiefdoms—and within the royal lineage itself—have had political significance, but externally a sense of Sotho nationhood and cultural unity remains strong. Other Basotho subgroups include the Natal (North) Nguni, Batloung (the Tlou), Baphuthi (the Phuti), Bafokeng, Bataung (the Tau), Bats’oeneng (the tso’ene) and the Cape (South) Nguni (Thembu). Other ethnic groups include Europeans, numbering in the thousands, and several hundred Asians.
Lesotho’s ethno-linguistic structure consists almost entirely of the Basotho, a Bantu-speaking people: an estimated 99.7 percent of the people identify as Basotho. Basotho subgroups include the Bafokeng (totems: phoka (dew), ‘mutla (hare)), Batloung (totem: tlou (elephant)), Baphuthi (totem: phuthi), Bakuena (totem: kuena (crocodile)), Bataung (totem: tau (lion)), Batšoeneng (totem: tšoene), and Matebele. The main language, Sesotho, is also the first official and administrative language, and it is what Basotho speak on an ordinary basis. Except for English, all the main languages spoken in Lesotho are members of the Niger-Congo language family. Sotho (Sesotho), a Bantu language, is spoken by the majority of the population, though both Sotho and English are official languages in the country. Zulu is spoken by a small but significant minority. Phuthi, a dialect of Swati, and Xhosa are also spoken in parts of Lesotho.
Christian missions have long been active in Lesotho. As a result, about 90% of the population are Christian, with about 70% being Roman Catholic. The primary Protestant denominations are the Lesotho Evangelical Church and the Anglican Church. Muslims, members of other non-Christian religions, and atheists make up the remaining 10%. The indigenous population, including many of its Christian members, follow African traditional religions. Some of the Catholic churches in the country incorporate traditional customs into worship, including traditional music, language, and dress. Christians are found throughout the country, while Muslims tend to be concentrated in the northeastern part of the country. Many of the Muslims are of Asian descent, while most of the Christians are indigenous Basotho. Certain Christian holidays are celebrated as national holidays.
The Education System in Lesotho comprises different levels viz, pre-school, primary, secondary and tertiary. There is also non-formal education that cuts across primary, secondary and tertiary. Each level has a minimum duration: pre-school is three years except for a reception class which is one year; seven years for primary; five years for secondary and a minimum of one year for tertiary depending on a type of programme – a certificate, diploma or degree programme. The policy and legislative environment for education are conducive to improved learning outcomes, however, it is not without challenges. Unlike previously, there is a growing recognition of the importance of early childhood care and development across the sects of the nation due to continued advocacy efforts by various players such as UNICEF, civil society organizations, faith-based organizations and individual advocates. There is evidence generated locally on early childhood care and development (ECCD) being able to improve learning outcomes in primary schools.
The education system is organized into three main cycles according to level and type. Primary education, the first level, extends over seven years and constitutes the basic education phase. The main aims of the basic education cycle were identified by the Government of Lesotho in 1988: “The primary school curriculum is universally regarded as the vehicle for imparting basic education and life skills that children need to meet life challenges. In addition to the skills of writing, reading, and numeracy, children are expected to be introduced, during their primary school years, to basic messages and concepts on the environment, nutrition, health, population and civic education.”
The primary school cycle leads to the Primary School Leaving Certificate Examination, which determines access to secondary school. The second level consists of two stages. Junior secondary extends over three years and leads to the Junior Certificate (JC). Upper secondary lasts for a further two years and leads to the Cambridge Overseas School Certificate (COSC). The 256 secondary schools that are over 90% church-owned serve a theoretical student population of almost 100,000, of which less than 50% have traditionally attended high school. It remains to be seen how this system can support an influx of students now that education is free for all. It is likely that many pupils will continue to leave for work after the completion of their 8th grade, and that only a tiny elite will make it through to qualifying for the university by passing their grade 10.
Students with a more practical orientation can switch to a technical and vocational education stream for 3 years after completing their grade 8. This will prepare them for further technical training at tertiary level. The third and highest level provides post-secondary and higher education. The main institutions of higher learning are the National University of Lesotho (NUL), the National Teacher Training College (NTTC), the National Health Training College (NHTC), and the Lesotho Agricultural College (LAC).
Economic growth in Lesotho for the last three years averaged approximately 3%, driven primarily by textile manufacturing and agriculture. The performance of textile manufacturing was underpinned by the Rand/dollar depreciation, while agriculture experienced a strong recovery following the severe droughts of 2015 and 2016. Domestic growth is, however, expected to pick up in the next three years boosted by an increase in construction associated with the second phase of the Lesotho Highland Water Project and diamond mining. Unemployment remains high at 24 to 28%, coupled with high inequality and poverty. Lesotho made progress in poverty reduction in the 2000s by lowering its headcount poverty rate ($1.9/day PPP) from 61.3% in CY02 to 59.7% in CY11. Estimates for 2016 suggest that 57.8% of the population is still trapped under extreme poverty.
Lesotho relies on South Africa for much of its economic activity; Lesotho imports 85% of the goods it consumes from South Africa, including most agricultural inputs. Households depend heavily on remittances from family members working in South Africa in mines, on farms, and as domestic workers, though mining employment has declined substantially since the 1990s. Lesotho is a member of the Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU), and revenues from SACU accounted for roughly 26% of total GDP in 2016; however, SACU revenues are volatile and expected to decline over the next 5 years. Lesotho also gains royalties from the South African Government for water transferred to South Africa from a dam and reservoir system in Lesotho. However, the government continues to strengthen its tax system to reduce dependency on customs duties and other transfers.
The government maintains a large presence in the economy – government consumption accounted for about 26% of GDP in 2017. The government remains Lesotho’s largest employer; in 2016, the government wage bill rose to 23% of GDP – the largest in sub-Saharan Africa. Lesotho’s largest private employer is the textile and garment industry – approximately 36,000 Basotho, mainly women, work in factories producing garments for export to South Africa and the US. Diamond mining in Lesotho has grown in recent years and accounted for nearly 35% of total exports in 2015. Lesotho managed steady GDP growth at an average of 4.5% from 2010 to 2014, dropping to about 2.5% in 2015-16, but poverty remains widespread around 57% of the total population.
The country finds itself at a crossroads needing new engines for growth, a more streamlined role for the state, and a dynamic private sector to help it seize opportunities in regional and global markets. Lesotho has made important progress in improving its Doing Business indicators, especially in terms of streamlining business and property registration processes that hinder the growth of local businesses, as well as in incoming Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). However, more progress is needed to improve the business environment and achieve the country’s development goals. The decline in South African Customs Union (SACU) revenues pose a challenge to the country’s fiscal outlook: revenues fell from 25% of GDP in 2015 to 13.6% of GDP in 2017. The government responded to the SACU shortfall by allowing the fiscal deficit to increase.
As a result, Lesotho’s deficit reached 7% of GDP in FY2017. SACU revenues recovered in 2018 but are projected to decline by 2½ percentage points of GDP a year for the next two years. With public spending at 50% of GDP in 2017 and a wage bill of 18% of GDP, the government’s ability to drive growth further is limited. As part of the budget bill for 2018, the government outlined some measures that it is implementing to reduce the wage bill and maintain macroeconomic stability and fiscal sustainability. These measures include; continuing its efforts to remove ghost workers, freezing new positions and limiting hiring to critical positions only, linking notch increases to performance, and introducing voluntary retirement.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$6.955 billion (2017 est.)
$6.748 billion (2016 est.)
$6.585 billion (2015 est.)
note: data are in 2017 dollars
GDP (official exchange rate):
$2.768 billion (2017 est.)
GDP – real growth rate:
3.1% (2017 est.)
3.1% (2016 est.)
2.5% (2015 est.)
GDP – per capita (PPP):
$3,600 (2017 est.)
$3,500 (2016 est.)
$3,400 (2015 est.)
Gross national saving:
25.4% of GDP (2017 est.)
20.5% of GDP (2016 est.)
24.2% of GDP (2015 est.)
GDP – composition, by sector of origin:
services: 60.1% (2017 est.)
Agriculture – products:
corn, wheat, pulses, sorghum, barley; livestock
food, beverages, textiles, apparel assembly, handicrafts, construction, tourism
Population below poverty line:
57% (2016 est.)
revenues: $1.057 billion
expenditures: $1.16 billion (2017 est.)
Although the majority of Lesotho’s population engage in subsistence farming, almost one-quarter are dependent on food aid and 70 percent live below the poverty line. Maize, wheat, pulses, sorghum, and barley are the primary crops grown but less than 30 percent of the country’s needs are met through cereal production compared to 80 percent in 1980. According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), declining agricultural production – caused by severe land degradation, reliance on rainfed agriculture and unfavorable weather conditions – is one of the principal causes of poverty in rural areas. A lack of investment in agriculture and a lack of income-generating activities are also major challenges.
Lesotho’s primary crops are corn (maize), beans, wheat, sorghum, and peas. Droughts have had a devastating effect and destroyed many summer harvests and livestock. The mountainous terrain means that only 10% of the land can be cultivated. Despite this, Lesotho’s economy is largely dependent on agriculture. The decline in agriculture production is one of the main causes of poverty in rural areas. The majority of Lesotho’s population lives in rural areas, where 85% make a living from agriculture. The country’s land is largely barren and mountainous. Less than 30% of the country’s needs are met through cereal production. Lesotho imports over 60% of its food requirements and livestock from South Africa. Livestock productivity has also declined, as has the proportion of households who own livestock. Theft of stock and degradation of pastures through overstocking and uncontrolled grazing have been identified as contributing factors. Rearing livestock – sheep, goats, and cattle – is generally a subsistence activity.
Fewer than five percent of households currently produces enough food to feed their families, making them very vulnerable to rising food prices. Lesotho imports 70 percent of its annual food consumption, therefore soaring prices and the global economic downturn have hit Lesotho hard. Farmers have also been affected by the rising cost of seeds and fertilizers, forcing many to leave their land fallow. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the cost of planting crops rose by more than four times the price of seed and fertilizer rose.
With falling agricultural production, remittances from migrant workers have been vital to the strength of the economy. During the 1990’s, remittances contributed almost 70 percent of the country’s GDP. However, a switch towards less labor intensive mining and an economic downturn has seen the number of migrant workers employed in South Africa declined from 125,000 in the 1990s to 35,000 by 2010. The resulting drop in remittances has pushed many households deeper into poverty.
population without electricity: 1,700,000
electrification – total population: 17%
electrification – urban areas: 43%
electrification – rural areas: 8% (2013)
Electricity – production:
600 million kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – consumption:
763 million kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – exports:
0 million kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – imports:
0 billion kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – installed generating capacity:
80,000 kW (2015 est.)
Electricity – from fossil fuels:
100% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
Electricity – from nuclear fuels:
0% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
Telephones – fixed lines:
total subscriptions: 41,158
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 2 (July 2016 est.)
Telephones – mobile cellular:
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 117 (July 2016 est.)
Internet country code:
percent of population: 27.4% (July 2016 est.)
Industry and Mining
The contribution of Manufacturing to GDP declined from 20.1% in 2004 to 11.4% in 2010 due in part to the global economic crisis and the rapid growth of other sectors in the country. Major manufacturing industries include textiles, clothing, footwear, food, and beverages. Manufacturing is based largely in and around the capital, Maseru. The Government of Lesotho previously encouraged foreign direct investment in the manufacture of textiles, clothing, and footwear to take advantage of preferential trade arrangements with the USA, however, following the economic crisis, textile producers have struggled to compete with low-cost producers in Asia.
Manufacturing is a relatively new sector of Lesotho’s economy, largely because South Africa strongly discouraged competing industries until after the end of apartheid in 1994. The emphasis has been on small-scale enterprises; several industrial estates operate small projects, producing candles, ceramics, furniture, and jewelry. Other activities include weaving, canning, and diamond cutting and polishing. Clothing from wool and mohair, food products, fertilizers, and television sets are also produced. Urban development has stimulated construction and catering and other service industries. The combined, textile, apparel and footwear manufacturing industry remains Lesotho’s largest formal private sector employer – employing around 46 500 workers.
In the early 21st century the textile industry grew, aided by favourable trade agreements such as the U.S.-led African Growth and Opportunity Act and the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Textiles and Clothing; the sector diminished, however, when certain trade protections expired in 2005, and competition from countries such as China rendered the Lesotho textile sector largely uncompetitive. Its current employment is below its early-2003 peak of about 54 000 workers. The industry suffered large declines in employment in the period after the phase-out of the Multi-Fibre Arrangement (MFA); and, in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis. As with other garment industries, about 82% of all industry jobs are occupied by women.
The contribution of the industry to Lesotho’s economy goes beyond the sector itself – there are important employment and economic multipliers. A range of formal/informal sector activities occurs that feed into/off the industry, e.g. a small packaging industry, road freight transporters, courier services, clearing agents, security, passenger transport, traders that sell food to workers, residential accommodation, water, electrical and telecommunication utilities, etc. The wages earned by employees engaged in Lesotho’s textiles, apparel, and footwear industry are of vital importance to Lesotho’s economy. It is estimated that sector production workers alone could collectively earn basic wages of about US$50m per annum – incomes would be higher taking into account that some firms pay wages above the minimums (e.g. to workers with special skills; and, for overtime payments).
With effect from April 2016 skilled garment workers are paid a monthly minimum wage of about US$94, and an unskilled worker’s monthly minimum wage would be approximately US$86. Lesotho’s labor laws enshrine all aspects of the ILO’s core conventions (no child or forced labor; non-discrimination; freedom of association), regulate maximum working hours (45 normal & 11 hours overtime per week); and guarantee minimum paid leave. While the application of Lesotho’s labor laws is regulated by the inspectorate of the Lesotho Ministry of Employment & Labour, many retailers/brands (including Levi Strauss, The Children’s Place, the Gap, etc) that source garments from Lesotho also monitor factory conditions in their Lesotho vendors. Recently (in 2016) a donor-driven ILO programme “Better work Lesotho” wrapped-up an eight-year programme involving factory compliance with the local and global standards. Currently, six Lesotho factories (all US exporters) have Worldwide Responsible Apparel Production accreditation.
Lesotho’s currency, the loti (plural: maloti), is issued by the Central Bank of Lesotho. The currency was introduced in 1980 as a way to establish monetary independence from South Africa. Lesotho is a member of the Common Monetary Area, comprising Lesotho, Swaziland, South Africa, and (since 1990) Namibia. This organization allows Lesotho the freedom to set the exchange rate of its own currency, although at the beginning of the 21st century the loti was fixed to the South African Rand. Lesotho has a few commercial and development banks.
Lesotho’s banking system consists of the Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL) and commercial banks. The CBL is responsible for management of the country’s foreign exchange reserves, administration of exchange controls, and regulation of financial institutions. The banking system is dominated by three South African banks: Standard Lesotho Bank, Nedbank Lesotho, First National Bank Lesotho. All banks offer a comprehensive range of products and services through a branch and electronic banking infrastructures. Electronic commerce (e-commerce) is still a new concept in Lesotho; the Ministry of Communications has developed proposals for electronic commerce to be more widely developed, and an e-commerce legislation is being drafted. Electronic funds transfers are limited to $10,000 per transaction for transfers to local bank accounts, while for external bank accounts; the limit is roughly $50 million.
Individuals can open local currency accounts with any bank. The bank will require an individual’s identity document and proof of residential address to open an account. For businesses, the bank requires an application letter with the specimen signatures of the signatories to the account. Through Lesotho’s membership in the Common Monetary Area, the central bank does not give directions as to interest rates, exchange rates margins, or the spread of services offered and the branch network. This creates a low political risk environment for banking investment. According to the IMF, Lesotho’s banks are currently well capitalized and are viewed to be relatively stable.
Ex-Im is an independent U.S. Government agency that helps finance the overseas sales of U.S. goods and services. Ex-Im Bank’s mission is to create jobs through exports. The Bank provides guarantees of working capital loans for U.S. exporters, guarantees the repayment of loans or makes loans to foreign purchasers of U.S. goods and services. Ex-Im Bank also provides credit insurance that protects U.S. exporters against the risks of non-payment by foreign buyers for political or commercial reasons. Ex-Im Bank does not compete with commercial lenders but assumes the risks they cannot accept. It must always conclude that there is reasonable assurance of repayment on every transaction financed. To qualify for Ex-Im Bank support, the product or service must have significant U.S. content and must not affect the U.S. economy adversely. Ex-Im Bank supports the sale of U.S. exports worldwide and will support the financing of the export of any type of goods or services, including commodities, as long as they are not military-related. For more information.
Lesotho is famous for its spectacular scenic beauty branded by breathtaking mountain ranges, towering peaks, a rich variety of flora and fauna, crystal clear streams, surging waterfalls, diverse culture and a snow blanket seen high in the mountains across the country in winter. While traveling around the country, visitors will come across the various forms of crafts that are handmade by Basotho.
The mountains, landscape and high altitude lure bikers, 4X4 riders and hikers to explore them in search for adrenaline teasing challenges and adventure. In the southern part of the country, the Sehlabathebe National Park – Lesotho’s flagship park, forms part of the itinerary for any visitor to Lesotho offering majestic scenery. The park is also home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, some of which have never been found elsewhere in the world.
Whether it is for relaxing, adventure or sporting activities that tourists may visit Lesotho, they will always be amazed by extreme sporting activities, beautiful rock formations, and rock paintings, ancient creatures’ footprints like the dinosaurs and bird watching. Those who wish to explore routes on foot and experience the Basotho culture will find what they are looking for. The waters of Lesotho allow for canoeing, boating, and fishing among a hive of other water-based activities.
Place of Attraction
Sehlabathebe National Park; Sehlabathebe National Park is the national designated nature reserve in Lesotho and comprises 6 500 hectares at an average elevation of 2 400 m. The park is ideal for hiking, bird-watching and contains unusual rock formations and alpine flora. The game is limited to a few antelope species but the scenery is stunning.
Maletsunyane Waterfalls; Maletsunyane Waterfalls, one of the highest single dropping waterfalls in the Southern Hemisphere plummeting 186 metres into a spectacular gorge creating clouds of spray visible from afar Semonkong Lodge offers you the chance to explore the magnificent scenery and culture of Lesotho The Lodge together with the local community provides ponies and guides for the adventure, day trips to the Maletsunyane Fall.
Thaba Bosiu Mountain; Thaba Bosiu, The name Thaba Bosiu means the ‘Mountain at Night’. It was in July 1824 when Moshoeshoe and his people took occupation of the mountain which his brother Mohale had reconnoitered. He named the mountain Thaba Bosiu-Mountain at Night because he and his people arrived there in the evening and the essential protective work took him until late at night. Many years later the news to intimidate his enemies was spread that at night time the mountain grew larger than usual.
Tse’hlanyane National Park; This National Park is as underrated as it is underused. This is the largest park in Lesotho and no other place is about as far away from it all as Ts’ehlanyane. It has 5600-hectare patch of rugged wilderness, including one of Lesotho’s only stands of indigenous forest with a number of rare undergrowth plants that are unique to this woodland habitat.
Katse Dam and Botanical Gardens; Any trip to Lesotho are highlighted by a visit to Katse Dam. This is the centerpiece of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project which transfers the water of the Lesotho Highlands via an incredible conduit of dams and tunnels through the mountains, eventually dispelling out onto the plains of South Africa’s Free State Province.
The history of people living in the area now known as Lesotho goes back as many as 40,000 years. From about the 16th century, African farmers—the ancestors of the present population—moved across the grasslands of Southern Africa and settled in the fertile valleys of the Caledon River, where they came to dominate the hunters of the region. These stock-keeping agriculturalists belonged to the large Sotho group and were divided into numerous clans that formed the nucleus of chiefdoms, whose members occupied villages. At some stage during their migration south from a tertiary dispersal area Bantu speaking peoples came to settle the lands that now make up Lesotho as well as a more extensive territory of fertile lands that surround modern day Lesotho. These people spoke a unique “South Sotho” dialect seSotho and called themselves the Basotho.
The ancestors of the Sotho people entered the area south of the Limpopo River in several migrations. In time, they became dispersed over the vast interior plateau between the eastern escarpment and the arid western regions and formed four subgroups ó the Tswana, North Sotho, South Sotho and East Sotho. Those who settled in the western regions preferred to be called Batswana (Tswana) while those living in the southern regions called themselves Basotho. The Sothos living in the northern areas also preferred the name Basotho but were sometimes referred to as Pedi. However, not all the North Sotho use this name. The East Sotho people lived in the Lowveld area of the Northern Province but lost their distinguishing characteristics and, in time, became assimilated into the present-day North Sotho Group. The South Sotho or Basotho people settled in the area that was to become known first as Basutoland and later as Lesotho.
There were several severe disruptions to the Basotho peoples in the early 19th century. One view states that the first of these were marauding Zulu clans, displaced from Zululand as part of the Lifaqane (or Mfecane), wrought havoc on the Basotho peoples they encountered as they moved first west and then north. The second that no sooner than the Zulu has passed to the north than the first Voortrekkers arrived, some of whom obtained hospitality during their difficult trek north. Early Voortrekker accounts describe how the lands surrounding the mountain retreat of the Basotho had been burnt and destroyed, in effect leaving a vacuum that subsequent Voortrekkers began to occupy.
The first Kingdom
In 1818, Moshoeshoe, a minor chief of a northern tribe in what was to become Basutoland, brought together the survivors of the devastating Zulu and Matabele raids and founded the Basotho nation. During Moshoeshoe’s reign (1823–1870), a series of wars (1856–68) were fought with the Boers who had settled in traditional Basotho lands. These wars resulted in the extensive loss of land, now known as the “Lost Territory”. In 1824 he occupied Thaba Bosiu (“Mountain at Night”), the defensive center from which he incorporated many other individuals, lineages, and chiefdoms into what became the kingdom of the Sotho (subsequently also called Basutoland). Moshoeshoe was a man of remarkable political and diplomatic skill. By cooperating with other chiefdoms and extending the influence of his own lineage, he was able to create a Sotho identity and unity, both of which were used to repel the external forces that threatened their autonomy and independence.
In the 1830s, on the western borders of Basutoland, Boer trekkers who were from the Cape Colony appeared and claimed to have land rights. Jan de Winnaar lived in Matlakeng zone and was the pioneer of the trekkers. As more ranchers moved into the region, they attempted to inhabit the land, asserting that it had been “relinquished” by the Sotho individuals. Moshoeshoe after hearing about the trekkers taking land above the intersection expressed that the lands belonged to him but he would not prevent them from grazing there until a time came for them to move on and that the settlers were supposed to maintain peace with his people and recognize that he was in charge.
Eugène Casalis later commented that the trekkers had submissively requested brief rights while they were as yet very few, but that is when they felt that they were sufficiently strong, they returned to their original intention – colonization. As a result, the following thirty years were full of conflicts. Faced with this new threat, Moshoeshoe deployed, to the best of his abilities, his naturally acquired diplomatic skills. It was during these battles with the Boers that the Basotho acquired guns and came to learn how to use them. While Moshoeshoe preferred non-aggression and a peaceful resolution to conflicts, the Boers were determined that no African chiefdom should survive, particularly that of Moshoeshoe. Thus, the use, and indeed, the success of diplomacy would now be challenged.
Rule of Moshoeshoe I
In 1845, an agreement was signed that perceived the white settlers in the zone, with an understanding that their stay was just temporarily. In any case, no borderlines were established between the zone of white settlement and Moshoeshoe’s fortress, since it was altogether viewed as Moshoeshoe’s territory. In the long run, due to the constant conflicts over the border, it was necessary to draw the boundary lines. The territory that was between Vaal Rivers and Orange was controlled by the British who later made a claim on the Warden line. The line partitioned between Basotho, which was under the rule of Moshoeshoe, and British territory. The Warden line caused much resentment since the Caledon River Valley was very fertile and it served as an essential horticultural region for both the Basotho and the British.
The British making claims on that borderline were not acceptable to Moshoeshoe and this resulted to hostility which brought about 10 conflicts; in 1851 a battle took place at Viervoet where the British lost to Moshoeshoe. Further problems ensured, when Sir George Cathcart conveyed an army to the Mohokare River, punishing Moshoeshoe and ordering him to pay a fine. This brought about a fight breaking out in 1852 on the Berea Plateau, where the British, once more, endured substantial misfortunes because of the outfitted Basotho rangers.
In 1854, the British found it hard to maintain the power and hence they gave over the domain to the Boers after they signed the Sand River Convention. The Boers at that point made claim on the land that was past the Caledon River, where they named it the Republic of the Orange Free State (OFS). This brought about additional hostility over boundaries and lands with the Basotho, who viewed themselves as the legitimate proprietors and who kept on utilizing the land for grazing. Additionally strife happened after JN Boshof, President of the OFS, and Moshoeshoe talked about issues of cattle rustling and armed conflict. In March 1858, after the discussions were not successful, Boshof declared war on the Basotho. The Basotho were intimidating rivals and the Boers endured generous misfortunes and were not in a position to enter the Basotho mountain fortification of Thaba Bosiu. During the war, the Boers decimated numerous mission stations in the Basotho kingdom, as they censured them for instructing and imparting a feeling of pride among the Basotho The Paris Evangelical Society missionaries had set up those mission stations, who touched base at Thaba Bosiu and had helped in joining the Basotho under Moshoeshoe.
Basotho Between wars
After the war, it was followed by an uncomfortable peace. Boshof was substituted by J.H Brand who stepped up and consulted with Moshoeshoe, who protested that the borderlines were not clear. Despite the negotiation efforts, conflict re-surfaced where the OFS tried to utilize their military predominance against the Basotho. Moshoeshoe understood his shaky position and applied for British security from Sir Philip Wodehouse. The disputes with the Boers over land, however, were revived in 1858 with Senekal’s War and again, more seriously, in 1865 with the Seqiti War. The Boers had a number of military successes, killing possibly 1,500 Basotho soldiers, and annexed an expanse of arable land which they were able to retain following a treaty at Thaba Bosiu. Further conflict led to an unsuccessful attack on Thaba Bosiu and the death of a Boer commandant, Louw Wepener, but by 1867, much of Moshoeshoe’s land and most of his fortresses had been taken.
Fearing defeat, Moshoeshoe made further appeals to High Commissioner Philip Edmond Wodehouse for British assistance. On 12 March 1868, the British Cabinet agreed to place the territory under British protection and the Boers were ordered to leave. In February 1869, the British and the Boers agreed to the Convention of Aliwal North, which defined the boundaries of the protectorate. The arable land west of the Caledon River remained in Boer’s hands and is referred to as the Lost or Conquered Territory. Moshoeshoe died in 1870 and was buried atop Thaba Mosiu.
In 1871 the protectorate was annexed to Cape Colony. The Basotho resisted the British and in 1879 a southern chief, Moorosi, rose in revolt. His campaign was crushed, and he was killed in the fighting. The Basotho then began to fight amongst themselves over the division of Moorosi’s lands. The British extended the Cape Peace Preservation Act of 1878 to cover Basutoland and attempted to disarm the natives. Much of the colony rose in revolt in the Gun War (1880-1881), inflicting significant casualties upon the colonial British forces sent to subdue it. A peace treaty of 1881 failed to quell the sporadic fighting.
Cape Town’s inability to control the territory led to its return to crown control in 1884 as the Territory of Basutoland. The colony was bound by the Orange River Colony, Natal Colony, and Cape Colony. It was divided into seven administrative districts: Berea, Leribe, Maseru, Mohale’s Hoek, Mafeteng, Qacha’s Nek and Quthing. The colony was ruled by the British Resident Commissioner, who worked through the pitso (national assembly) of hereditary native chiefs under one paramount chief. Each chief ruled award within the territory. The first paramount chief was Lerothodi, the son of Moshoeshoe. During the Second Boer War, the colony was neutral. The population grew from around 125,000 in 1875, to 310,000 in 1901, and to 349,000 by 1904.
When the Union of South Africa was founded in 1910 the colony was still controlled by the British and moves were made to transfer it to the Union. However, the people of Basutoland opposed this and when the National Party put its apartheid policies into place the possibility of annexation was halted. In 1959, a new constitution gave Basutoland its first elected legislature. This was followed in April 1965 with general legislative elections. The differing fates of the Sesotho-speaking peoples in the Protectorate of Basotholand and in the lands that became the Orange Free State are worth noting. The Orange Free State became a Boer-ruled territory. At the end of the Boer War, it was colonized by the British, and this colony was subsequently incorporated by Britain into the Union of South Africa as one of four provinces.
These protectorates were individually brought to independence by Britain in the 1960s. By becoming a protectorate, Basotholand and its inhabitants were not subjected to Afrikaner rule, which saved them from experiencing Apartheid, and so generally prospered under more benevolent British rule. Basotho residents of Basotholand had access to better health services and to education and came to experience greater political emancipation through independence. These lands protected by the British, however, had a much smaller capacity to generate income and wealth than had the “lost territory”, which had been granted to the Boers. After a 1955 request by the Basutoland Council to legislate its internal affairs, in 1959 a new constitution gave Basutoland its first elected legislature. This was followed in April 1965 with general legislative elections with universal adult suffrage in which the Basotho National Party (BNP) won 31 and the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP) won 25 of the 65 seats contested.
On October 4, 1966, the Kingdom of Lesotho attained full independence, governed by a constitutional monarchy with a bicameral Parliament consisting of a Senate and an elected National Assembly. In 1973, an appointed Interim National Assembly was established. With an overwhelming pro-government majority, it was largely the instrument of the BNP, led by Prime Minister Jonathan. In addition to the Jonathan regime’s alienation of Basotho powerbrokers and the local population, South Africa had virtually closed the country’s land borders because of Lesotho support of cross-border operations of the African National Congress (ANC). Because Moshoeshoe II initially refused to return to Lesotho under the new rules of the government in which the King was endowed only with ceremonial powers, Moshoeshoe’s son was installed as King Letsie III.
In 1992, Moshoeshoe II returned to Lesotho as a regular citizen until 1995 when King Letsie abdicated the throne in favor of his father. In 1993, a new constitution was implemented leaving the King without any executive authority and prescribing him from engaging in political affairs. Multiparty elections were then held in which the BCP ascended to power with a landslide victory. In December 1998 and devised a proportional electoral system to ensure that there be opposition in the National Assembly. The new system retained the existing 80 elected Assembly seats but added 40 seats to be filled on a proportional basis. Elections were held under this new system in May 2002, and the LCD won again, gaining 54% of the vote. For the first time, however, opposition political parties won significant numbers of seats, and despite some irregularities and threats of violence from Major General Lekhanya, Lesotho experienced its first peaceful election. Nine opposition parties now hold all 40 of the proportional seats, with the BNP having the largest share. The LCD has 79 of the 80 constituency-based seats.
In June 2014, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane suspended parliament because of conflict within his coalition, leading to criticisms that he was undermining the government. In August, after Thabane attempted to remove Lieutenant General Kennedy Tlai Kamoli from the head of the army, the Prime Minister fled the country alleging a coup was taking place. Kamali denied that any coup had occurred.