Skip to main content
Select Source:




Kingdom of Lesotho

Muso oa Lesotho


FLAG: The flag is divided diagonally from the lower hoist side corner; the upper half is white bearing the brown silhouette of a large shield with crossed spear and club; the lower half is a diagonal blue band with a green triangle in the corner.

ANTHEM: Lesotho Fatse La Bo-nata Rona (Lesotho, the Country of Our Fathers).

MONETARY UNIT: Lesotho is part of the South African monetary area; the maloti of 100 lisente, introduced in 1980, is on a par with the South African rand (r), which also is legal tender. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, and 50 lisente, and notes of 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 maloti (m). m1 = $0.16129 (or $1 = m6.2) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: British and metric weights and measures are in general use.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Moshoeshoe's Day, 12 March; Family Day, 1st Monday in July; King's Birthday, 17 July; Independence Day, 4 October; National Sports Day, 6 October; Christmas, 25 December; Boxing Day, 26 December. Movable Christian holidays include Good Friday, Easter Monday, and Ascension.

TIME: 2 pm = noon GMT.


Lesotho is an enclave within the Republic of South Africa, with an area of 30,355 sq km (11,720 sq mi), extending 248 km (154 mi) nnessw and 181 km (112 mi) esewnw. Comparatively, the area occupied by Lesotho is slightly smaller than the state of Maryland.

It is bordered on the e by the South African province of Natal, on the s by Cape Province, and on the w and n by the Orange Free State, with a total boundary length of 909 km (565 mi). Lesotho claims that Basotho lands now part of South Africa were unjustly taken by force in the 19th century.

Lesotho's capital city, Maseru, is located on the country's northwest border.


Three distinct geographical regions, demarcated by ascending altitude, extend approximately north-south across Lesotho. The western quarter of the country is a plateau averaging 1,5001,850 m (4,9006,100 ft). The soil of this zone is derived from sandstone and, particularly in the westernmost region, is poor and badly eroded. The remainder of the country is highland. A zone of rolling foothills, ranging from 1,8002,200 m (5,9007,200 ft), forms the border between the lowlands and the mountains in the east.

The Drakensberg Range forms the entire eastern and southeastern border. A spur of this range, the Maluti Mountains, runs north and south. Where it joins the Drakensberg Range there is a high plateau ranging from 2,7003,200 m (8,90010,500 ft) in elevation. The highest point is Thabana Ntlenyana, 3,482 m (11,425 ft), in the east. The rich volcanic soils of the foothills and mountains are some of the best in the country.

The sources of two of the principal rivers of South Africa, the Orange and the Tugela, are in these mountains. Tributaries of the Caledon River, which forms the country's western border, also rise here. The Orange and Caledon rivers, together with their tributaries, drain more than 90% of the country.


Temperatures vary widely from one geographical zone to another, and frequently within zones, depending on the altitude. In the lowlands, temperatures reach 32°c (90°f) or more in the summer and rarely fall below -7°c (19°f) in the winter. The range in the highlands is greater; temperatures sometimes fall below -18°c (0°f), and frost and hail are frequent hazards. Rainfall, which is mostly concentrated in the months from October to April, averages 71 cm (28 in) annually, varying from 191 cm (75 in) in parts of the mountains to as little as 60 cm (24 in) in the lowlands. Most of the rainwater is lost through runoff, and droughts are common.


Grass is the natural vegetation in this virtually treeless country. The high plateau is covered with montane or subalpine grassland. Red oat grass forms a dry carpet in much of the Drakensberg foothill region. The country's small size, high elevation, and limited range of habitats restrict the variety of fauna. The African lammergeier, a bird common in the mountains of Ethiopia but nowhere else in Africa, and the bald ibis, both of which are near extinction, are found in small numbers in the Drakensberg Range. As of 2002, there were at least 33 species of mammals, 123 species of birds, and over 1,500 species of plants throughout the country.


Much of the country has become denuded of its natural grass cover through uncontrolled grazing and rushing surface water. Related problems are severe soil erosion, soil exhaustion, and desertification. In response to these problems, the Highlands Water Project has the goals of controlling, storing, and redirecting water to South Africa. More than 3.5 million trees, mostly eucalyptus, have been planted as part of a gully control program, and for production of fuel and poles. Among the agencies with environmental responsibility is the National Environmental Secretariat of the prime minister's office.

Unlike neighboring South Africa, Lesotho is not rich in game and other wildlife. The famous Basuto pony, of almost pure Arabian stock, reached its peak of quality and quantity around the turn of the century. After suffering a decline because of ruinous trading practices, overstocking, overgrazing, disease, and drought, the pony has begun to make a comeback through a selective breeding program and improved feeding methods. Other vanishing species, like the wildebeest and blesbok, have been reintroduced in areas where they formerly were numerous. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the number of threatened species included 3 types of mammals, 7 species of birds, 1 species of fish, 1 species of invertebrate, and 1 species of plant. Threatened species included the blue crane, the brown hyena, the African lion and the lesser flamingo.


The population of Lesotho in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 1,804,000, which placed it at number 142 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 5% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 38% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 87 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 20052010 was expected to be -0.1%. The projected population for the year 2025 was 1,604,000. The population density was 59 per sq km (154 per sq mi). Some 70% of the total population lives in the fertile lowlands, where the land can be most readily cultivated; the rest is scattered in the foothills and the mountains.

The UN estimated that 13% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 0.75%. The capital city, Maseru, had a population of 170,000 in that year. Other large towns are Leribe, Berea, and Mafeteng.

The prevalence of HIV/AIDS has had a significant impact on the population of Lesotho. The UN estimated that 30.1% of adults between the ages of 1549 were living with HIV/AIDS in 2001. The AIDS epidemic causes higher death and infant mortality rates, and lowers life expectancy.


In 1996, around 60% of active male wage earners in Lesotho worked in South Africa. Lesotho reported that 25,000 miners were sent to South African gold mines in the first six months of 2001. There were 6,000 migrants living in Lesotho in 2000, and virtually no refugees. According to Migration Information Source, Lesotho led the world's nations with the highest total remittances received as a percentage of GDP in 2001, with remittances as 26.2% of GDP, equivalent to $112.80 per capita. In 2003 remittances were $2.17 million. In 2004, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported no refugees or asylum seekers. In 2005, the net migration rate was an estimated -0.74 per 1,000 population. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.


Lesotho is ethnically homogeneous. At least 99.7% of the people are Sotho. Europeans, Asians, and other groups make up the remaining population.


The Sesotho (southern Sotho) language is spoken by virtually all the indigenous population. English shares with Sesotho the position of official language. Zulu and Xhosa are also spoken.


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.


In 2002 there were 4,995 km (3,104 mi) of roadway in Lesotho, 887 km (551 mi) of which were paved. A 2.6-km (1.6-mi) South African railway connects Maseru's industrial park to the Bloemfontein-Natal line, providing a valuable freight link to South Africa.

In 2004, there were an estimated 28 airports, of which only 3 had paved runways as of 2005. Lesotho Airways and South African Airways maintain scheduled passenger service between Johannesburg and Moshoeshoe International, the new international airport 19 km (12 mi) outside of Maseru. Lesotho Airways also has regular service to Swaziland, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique, and to 28 domestic airstrips. In 1997 (the latest year for which data was available), about 29,000 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international airline flights. Air taxis and chartered planes serve airstrips at Maseru and other centers.


What is now Lesotho was inhabited by hunter-gatherers, called the San Bushmen by the whites, until about 1600, when refugees from Bantu tribal wars began arriving. 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 the early days of its existence, the Basotho also had to contend with incursions by Boers from the Orange Free State. Moshoeshoe sought UK protection, but not before much land had been lost to white settlers. His urgent appeals for assistance went unheeded until 1868, when Basutoland became a crown protectorate. Moshoeshoe died in 1870. The following year, Basutoland was annexed to the Cape Colony, over the protests of both Basotho and Boer leaders. In 1880, the so-called Gun War broke out between the Basotho and the Boers over the attempt to disarm the Basotho in accordance with the provisions of the Cape Peace Preservation Act of 1878. A high point in Basotho history was the successful resistance waged against the Cape's forces.

In 1884, Basutoland was returned to UK administration under a policy of indirect rule. Local government was introduced in 1910 with the creation of the Basutoland Council, an advisory body composed of the British resident commissioner, the paramount chief, and 99 appointed Basotho members. In effect, for the next 50 years the chiefs were allowed to govern. Under a new constitution that became effective in 1960, an indirectly elected legislative body, the Basutoland National Council, was created.

A constitutional conference held in London in 1964 approved the recommendations for a pre-independence constitution that had been made by a constitutional commission. The new constitution went into effect on 30 April 1965, following the general election. The resident commissioner became the British government representative, retaining powers for defense, external affairs, internal security, and the public service.

In April 1966, a conflict arose in parliament between the government and the opposition over Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan's motion requesting that Britain set a date for independence. To forestall passage of the motion, Paramount Chief Moshoeshoe II replaced 5 of his 11 senatorial appointees with 5 opponents of the government. The High Court subsequently invalidated that action, declaring that his right to appoint 11 senators did not entail the right of dismissal. The Senate and National Assembly eventually passed the independence motion, the latter by a vote of 32 to 28, but the dispute foreshadowed a constitutional crisis that was not conclusively resolved at independence. The final independence conference was held in June 1966. Charging that the United Kingdom was granting independence to a minority government, and demanding a more significant role for the paramount chief, delegates representing the opposition withdrew. Moshoeshoe II himself declined to sign the final accord.


The United Kingdom granted independence to the newly named Kingdom of Lesotho on 4 October 1966; Moshoeshoe II was proclaimed king on that date. The first general election following the attainment of independence was held in January 1970. When it appeared that the ruling party, the Basotho National Party (BNP), would be defeated, Prime Minister Jonathan, its leader, declared a state of emergency and suspended the constitution. The Basotho Congress Party (BCP), led by Ntsu Mokhehle, claimed that it had won 33 seats to the BNP's 23. Leabua Jonathan admitted he had lost the election but nevertheless arrested the opposition leaders. The unrest, he said, was due to Communist influence, and since the majority of the people were behind him he would suspend the constitution and hold new elections later. King Moshoeshoe II was placed under house arrest and in April 1970 the Netherlands gave him asylum. He was permitted to return in December.

Scattered attacks on police posts occurred in January 1974 in an alleged attempt by supporters of the BCP to overthrow the government of the ruling BNP. The abortive coup d'etat resulted in the arrest, killing, imprisonment, or exile of many people. In March 1975, 15 BCP followers were found guilty of high treason. The struggle against the Jonathan government continued through the late 1970s and early 1980s, with the Lesotho Liberation Army (LLA), the military arm of the BCP in exile, claiming responsibility for periodic bombings in Maseru, ambushes of government officials, and attacks on police stations. The Lesotho government charged that South Africa was allowing the LLA to use its territory as a base of operations.

Relations with South Africa deteriorated after that nation granted independence in 1976 to the Bantu homeland of Transkei, on Lesotho's southeastern border. When Lesotho (like all other nations except South Africa) declined to recognize Transkei, the Transkeian authorities closed the border with Lesotho, which also angered South Africa by harboring members of the banned African National Congress (ANC), an exiled South African insurgent group. On 9 December 1982, South African troops raided private residences of alleged ANC members in Maseru; 42 persons were killed, including at least 12 Basotho citizens. In the early 1980s, South Africa used economic pressures against Lesotho.

Parliamentary elections scheduled for August 1985 by the Jonathan government were called off because all five opposition parties refused to take part, charging that the voters' roll was fraudulent. Later that year, South Africa stepped up its destabilization activities, conducting a commando raid and aiding antigovernment elements. On 1 January 1986, South Africa imposed a neartotal blockade of Lesotho that resulted in severe shortages of food and essential supplies. On 20 January, a military coup led by Maj. Gen. Justin Metsing Lekhanya overthrew the government. All executive and legislative powers were vested in the king, acting on the advice of a six-man military council. On 25 January, a number of ANC members and sympathizers were flown from Lesotho to Zambia, whereupon South Africa ended its blockade of the country. All political activity was banned on 27 March.

There was widespread skepticism about the military government and its links to Pretoria, and agitation to return to civilian rule. In 1990, Lekhanya had Moshoeshoe II exiled (for a second time) after the king refused to agree to the dismissal of several senior officers. In November 1990, a new law was announced providing for a constitutional monarchy but barring Moshoeshoe from the throne. Later that month, Moshoeshoe's son (King Letsie III), was elected king by an assembly of chiefs.

In April 1991, rebel army officers staged a bloodless coup, forcing Lekhanya to resign. He was succeeded by Col. Elias Ramaema as leader of a military junta. In July 1992, the king was allowed to return to a hero's welcome.

Multiparty elections were scheduled for 28 November 1992, but they were postponed until 1993 because of delays in delimiting parliamentary constituencies. Finally, on 27 March 1993, in the first democratic elections in 23 years, the Basotho Congress Party, the major opposition party, won all 65 seats in the Assembly. The BCP formed a government under Prime Minister Dr. Ntsu Mokhehle. The BCP offered to nominate four BNP members but only one opposition politician accepted. Several cabinet members were appointed from opposition ranks.

On 25 January 1994, army troops mutinied in Maseru after the government refused their demands for a 100% pay increase. Prime Minister Mokhehle requested military assistance from South Africa, but that request was denied. After three weeks of sporadic fighting, the two factions within the military agreed to a Commonwealth-brokered deal for negotiations with the government.

In August 1994, Lesotho's first democratically elected government faced another challenge when King Letsie III suspended parliament and imposed a "Ruling Council." The king had been angered by the Mokhehle government's creation of a board of inquiry to investigate the dethroning of his father. Although Letsie had the support of the security forces, his royal coup was condemned internally and internationally, and the United States cut off aid. On 14 September the crisis was resolved when the king agreed to return the throne to his father. However, two years later King Moshoeshoe was killed in a car crash, and his son reclaimed the thronemuch to the consternation of pro-democracy groups and Lesotho's neighbors.

Although the government increased military salaries in line with other government workers in 1995, an uprising three years later by a disgruntled faction of the Lesotho Defense Forces necessitated Botswana and South Africa military intervention. Over 50 soldiers were taken into custody and charged with mutiny in September 1998 on the heels of rioting and looting that destroyed parts of the capital following the May elections in 1998. The violence cost Lesotho untold millions as it sent the economy into a tailspin.

The Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) won the majority in parliament in the 23 May 1998 general elections, leaving the once-dominant Basotho National Party (BNP) and Basotholand Congress Party (BCP) far behind in total votes. Although international observers as well as a regional commission declared the elections to have reflected the will of the people, many members of the opposition have accused the LCD of electoral fraud. The 1998 elections were the third multiparty elections in Lesotho's history. Nevertheless, after political riots following the disputed 1998, an all party forum called the Interim Political Authority was formed to level ground for the next poll. It proposed the restructuring of the Independent Electoral Commission, which happened, and the change of the model from winner takes all to mixed member proportional representation. In the 25 May 2002 general elections, the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy was reelected by majority, winning all but one of the 80 constituency based seats. Under the proportional representation system 40 compensatory seats were shared among nine opposition parties. In terms of popular vote in the 2002 elections, LCD won 54%, BNP 21%, LPC 7%, and other parties 18%.

As of 2005, the Lesotho government remained a modified form of constitutional monarchy. The prime minister, Pakalitha Mosisili, was head of government and had executive authority. The king serves a largely ceremonial function; he no longer possesses any executive authority and is proscribed from actively participating in political initiatives.

Lesotho remained among the poorest countries in Africa with the majority of the population living below the poverty line on less than $1 a day. In June 2005, Lesotho had an HIV/AIDS prevalence rate of 28% among the adult population, and unemployment stood at 51%. Poverty, lack of jobs, and food shortages in the sub-region were driving rural to urban migration, and increasing the likelihood that young women and women heads of household would engage in commercial and risky sex to provide for their families.


According to the 1993 constitution, the Kingdom of Lesotho is a monarchy with a bicameral parliament consisting of a National Assembly of 120 members80 elected by direct popular vote and 40 by proportional votefor five-year terms, and a Senate consisting of 33 members22 chiefs and 11 others appointed by the ruling party.

Until 1993 the king was official chief of state (motlotlehi ), and was designated by the College of Chiefs, according to Basotho custom. The prime minister (head of government) was appointed by the king and was a member of the majority party in the National Assembly. The cabinet was also appointed by the king, in accordance with advice of the prime minister, from among members of both houses of parliament.

Under the 1993 constitution the monarch has become a figurehead, a "living symbol of national unity" with no executive or legislative powers. He is selected by traditional law and the College of Chiefs, which holds the power to determine who is next in the line of succession, and who shall serve as regent in the event that the successor is a minor. The College also may depose the monarch.

The leader of the majority party in the Assembly automatically becomes prime minister. Since 1998, the prime minister has been Pakalitha Mosisili, the leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD).


The Basotho National Party (BNP), formerly the Basutoland National Party, was founded in 1959 and was in the forefront of Lesotho's independence drive. The BNP long stood for maintaining diplomatic relations with South Africa and for a cautious approach to cooperation with other African states, in an attitude of "choose our friends but live with our neighbors." However, in the 1970s and early 1980s, the BNP played a more active role in opposing apartheid. By 1998, BNP had become the leading opposition party, as the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) took power.

The Basotho Congress Party (BCP), founded in 1952 and formerly known as the Basutoland African Congress, is an outspoken Pan-Africanist party. The first party to demand independence, it subsequently opposed the "premature" granting of independence to a minority government. The third major party is the Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP). This party was formed in 1965 by the merger of two parties that had supported the chieftaincy.

In the general election held on 29 April 1965, the BNP won 31 seats, the BCP 25 seats, and the MFP 4 seats in the National Assembly. Chief Jonathan was himself defeated in the election, and Sekhonyana Maseribane was appointed prime minister. Chief Jonathan won a by-election on 1 June and assumed the office of prime minister. The two opposition parties, which together had polled 56.2% of the vote to 41.6% for the BNP (with 2.2% of the vote going to others), in an election in which only 62% of those eligible had voted, joined forces to protest Britain's granting of independence to a minority government. They also called for a more even distribution of executive power between the prime minister and the chief of state, and appealed to the UN, the Commonwealth, and the OAU in an unsuccessful bid to have the independence agreement rescinded.

The BCP claimed it had won 33 seats in the 60-seat National Assembly in the January 1970 general elections; the BNP won 23 seats, and the ballots for 4 seats had not been counted. Confusion over the outcome of the 1970 election (in which the United Democratic Party and the Communist Party participated but won no seats) resulted in suspension of the constitution by Prime Minister Jonathan, and political activities of opposition parties were subsequently restricted. Prime Minister Jonathan appointed two members of opposition parties to his cabinet in November 1975. The BCP then split into two factions: members of one accepted government posts, while leaders of the other organized an armed insurgency in exile.

The March 1993 election was contested by more than a dozen parties, but the chief vote getters were the BCP, still headed by Dr. Mokhehle, and the BNP, led by Evaristus Sekhonyana. Among the others are the MFP, the United Democratic Party (UDP), and the Communist Party of Lesotho (CPL). The BCP held all elected seats in the National Assembly, despite having won just over half the vote.

Since 1998, the dominant political party has been the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) under the leadership of Dr. Pakalitha Mosisili. LCD won just over 60% of the votes in the May 1998 parliamentary elections. The major opposition parties included: the Basotho National Party (BNP); the Basotholand Congress Party (BCP) led by Molapo Qhobela (24% of the 1998 vote); the Lesotho Labor Party/United Democratic Party Alliance (LLP/UDP) led by Charles Mofeli and Mamolefi Ranthimo; the Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP); the National Progressive Party (NPP); and the Sefate Democratic Union (SDU).

In the 25 May 2002 parliamentary election, the LCD garnered 54% of the vote, the BNP 21%, the Lesotho People's Congress or LPC 7%, and other parties took 18%. With the number of seats expanded from 80 to 120, the breakdown by party was: LCD 76, BNP 21, LPC 5, and other parties 18. Although opposition parties objected to the results, independent observers described the elections as free, fair, peaceful, lawful, and transparenta model for Southern Africa. Next elections were due in 2007.


There are 10 districts, each headed by a centrally appointed district administrator. District councils, established in 1944, were abolished in 1966. Each district is subdivided into wards, most of them presided over by hereditary chiefs allied to the royal family. During the period of military rule, each district was headed by a district secretary and a district military officer appointed by the central government and the defense force, respectively.


The legal system is based on English common law and RomanDutch law with judicial review of legislative acts in High Court and Court of Appeal. Lesotho has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction.

The judicial system consists of the High Court, the Court of Appeal, subordinate courts, and the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). The members of the High Court are the chief justice, who is appointed by the chief of state, acting on the advice of the prime minister, and an unspecified number of puisne judges appointed by the chief of state, acting on the advice of the JSC. The Court of Appeal, which meets semiannually, is headed by a president, appointed by the chief of state, acting on the advice of the prime minister, and includes an unspecified number of justices of appeal, appointed by the chief of state, acting on the advice of the JSC. Parliament has the power of establishing subordinate courts and courts-martial. The High Court has unlimited original jurisdiction over civil and criminal matters, as well as appellate jurisdiction from subordinate courts.

Subordinate courts, comprising resident magistrate's courts, judicial commissioner's courts, and central and local courts, administer statute laws, while chiefs administer customary and tribal laws. There is no trial by jury. Military courts have jurisdiction only over military cases and their decisions are final.


As of 2005, Lesotho's armed forces totaled an estimated 2,000 active personnel, all of which were members of the Army. The service also had a 110-member air wing. Equipment included 22 reconnaissance vehicles and 12 artillery pieces. The air wing operated 1 patrol aircraft, 3 transport aircraft, and 4 utility helicopters. The defense budget in 2005 was $32.3 million.


Lesotho became a member of the United Nations on 17 October 1966 and participates in ECA and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the FAO, IFC, ULP, IMF, the World Bank, UNESCO, UNHCR, and the WHO. Lesotho is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the ACP Group, the African Development Bank, the African Union, and G-77. The country's close relationship with Southern Africa is a major factor in its economic survival. Lesotho belongs to the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Lesotho is also part of the Common Monetary Area (CMA) that includes Namibia, Swaziland, and South Africa.

The country is part of the Nonaligned Movement. In environmental cooperation, Lesotho is part of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, and the UN Conventions on Climate Change and Desertification.


Lesotho is an agricultural country, with modest industrial, tourism, and labor-remittance incomes. Its economic policy is closely tied to that of South Africa and the South African Rand is accepted as legal tender. Remittances from miners employed in South Africa plunged by half between 1990 and 1996. As 35% of male wage earners are employed in South Africa, 54% of households in Lesotho are headed by women. There is an illicit but thriving trade in marijuana grown in Lesotho for sale in South Africa. Land is controlled by the Chiefs of the Kingdom and cannot be privately owned. Textile/garment and agro-industrial enterprises dominate the industrial sector and tend to be state-owned, although privatization has increased. Manufacturing and construction businesses, however, are mostly privately owned.

Future economic growth is tied to the massive Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) completed in 1998. The project captures, stores, and transfers the headwaters of the Orange River system to industry clustered around Johannesburg, South Africa. Ancillary dams provide electricity.

Civil unrest in 1998 destroyed 80% of the commercial infrastructure in Maseru and two other towns. GDP was down by 3.6% in 1998, but was up to 3.2% in 2001, 3.8% in 2002, 3.3% in 2003, 3.0% in 2004, and down to 0.8% in 2005. Lesotho has a large trade deficit, and is a recipient of aid from the World Bank and Western countries. In 2001, the IMF approved a $32-million Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility program for Lesotho.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Lesotho's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $6.1 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $3,300. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 2%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 4.7%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 15.4% of GDP, industry 44.2%, and services 40.4%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $184 million or about $103 per capita and accounted for approximately 17.1% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $79 million or about $44 per capita and accounted for approximately 5.7% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Lesotho totaled $1.09 billion or about $606 per capita based on a GDP of $1.1 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of -0.8%. It was estimated that in 1999 about 49% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


The economically active population was estimated at 700,000 in 2002. Approximately 86% of the resident population engages in subsistence farming, and as many as 35% of male wage-earners work in South Africa. In 2002, the unemployment rate was put at 45%.

With the exception of civil servants, workers have the right to unionize, but only about 10% of the workforce are union members. While strikes are technically legal, no legally sanctioned strikes have occurred since independence in 1966. The rights to bargain collectively and organize, while technically legal, are often restricted by the government. There are three small trade union federations: the Lesotho Trade Union Congress, the Lesotho Federation of Democratic Unions, and the Congress of Lesotho Trade Unions; these three organizations seldom cooperate with each other.

While there are restrictions on working hours and practices for children under 14, in practice enforcement of these restrictions is ineffectual. The minimum wage is set by the government and varies from sector to sector. The minimum wage for unskilled labor was $73 per month in 2002. The law requires a maximum 45-hour workweek with 12 days of paid leave and paid holidays. Minimum occupational safety standards exist but are not effectively enforced.


In 2003, 17% of GDP came from agriculture. Crop production in Lesotho is a high-risk, low-yield activity due to poor soil quality and a harsh climate. All land is held in trust for the Basotho nation by the king and may not be alienated. The local chiefs allocate farmland to individuals, and user rights are generally available to married males; nevertheless, one out of seven households is landless. A 1979 act increases security of tenure by recording rights of inheritance and allowing mortgaging and subletting of land. The average landholding per family head is 1.9 hectares (4.7 acres).

Only 11% of Lesotho's land area is arable, but less than 1% has high potential. Most cultivated land is in the western lowlands. The principal food crop is corn. Main agricultural production in 2004 included (in tons) corn, 150,000; sorghum, 46,000; wheat, 51,000; dry beans, 8,000; and vegetables and melons, 18,000. The country suffered from recurrent drought conditions in the 1980s and early 1990s. Lesotho is a large importer of grains and other foodstuffs.

Lesotho has one of the most advanced soil conservation programs in Africa. Terracing, grass stripping, and the construction of dams and irrigation canals are widely employed to cope with the severe erosion problems.


The raising of livestock is the principal economic undertaking in Lesotho. Grazing rights on all noncultivated land are communal, and no limits are placed on the number of livestock permitted to graze an area. Lesotho's main exports are wool and mohair; in general, however, the quality of the livestock is poor and yields are low. In 2005 there were an estimated 850,000 sheep, 650,000 goats, 540,000 head of cattle, 154,000 asses, 100,000 horses, 65,000 hogs, and 1,800,000 chickens.

A number of livestock improvement centers have been established, and Merino rams and Angora bucks have been imported from South Africa for breeding purposes. Cattle, sheep, and goats are exported on the hoof. Hides and skins, usually from animals that have died of starvation or disease or have been slaughtered for human consumption, are also exported.


Fishing has not yet been popularized, although the Malutsenyane River is one of the best natural trout-fishing grounds in Africa. There is virtually no commercial fishing. In 2003, the total catch was 32 tons, including 16 tons of carp.


Lesotho is almost devoid of natural woodland. Trees have been planted in conjunction with soil conservation programs. Roundwood production in 2004 was estimated at 2.046 million cu m, all nonconiferous logs for fuel.


Lesotho has long been known as a source of diamonds, mostly from alluvial deposits, and was seeing a revival of its diamond mining industry. Geological surveys have revealed a limited variety of other exploitable mineral resources. In 2004, diamond production was estimated at 4,000 carats, up from 2,099 carats in 2003. Artisanal miners also produced small amounts of fire clay, gravel, dimension stone, and crushed rock for domestic consumption. Commercial interest in the mineral resources of Lesotho was limited to diamonds. The Lesotho Geological Survey has identified 33 kimberlite pipes and 140 dikes, of which 24 were diamondiferous.

The economy of landlocked Lesotho was based on subsistence agriculture, livestock, and remittances from migrant Basotho miners employed in South African gold mines. However, the number of migrant miners has fallen from an average of 110,000 in 1994, to 61,400 in 2003, and to 58,000 in 2004. The revival of the diamond industry in Lesotho showed hope for some new opportunities for Basotho mineworkers and for replacing related lost government revenues. Exploration for iron, coal, and uranium continued.


Lesotho, as of 1 January 2005, had no proven reserves of oil, natural gas, or coal, and totally lacked any petroleum refining capacity. It was therefore, completely reliant upon imports to meet its refined oil, natural gas, and coal needs.

In 2004, imports and demand for petroleum products averaged 2,000 barrels per day, each. In 2003, Lesotho had no recorded imports of natural gas or coal.

Lesotho's electric power is entirely hydroelectric, and is produced by the Muela hydroelectric facility, which came online in 1999. Muela is part of a jointly financed project with South Africa called the Lesotho Highlands Water Project. The project called for two 34-km (21-mi) tunnels to transport water from Lesotho's rivers to South Africa, with the first delivery in 1996 and maximum operation by 2020. Plans involved the construction of seven dams, as well as a hydroelectric plant that could meet almost all of Lesotho's power needs. In 1999, the first phase of this plant, the 80 MW Muela facility, came online. As of 1 January 2003, Lesotho's installed generating capacity totaled 0.076 GW. Output in 2003 totaled 0.35 billion kWh, with consumption for that year at 0.36 billion kWh.


Lesotho has a wide variety of light industries, which include, among others, tire retreading, tapestry weaving, diamond processing, and production of textiles, shoes, electric lighting, candles, ceramics, explosives, furniture, and fertilizers. Manufacturing depends largely on agricultural inputs to support milling, canning, leather, and jute industries. In the 1980s, the Lesotho National Development Corporation promoted industrial development in the production of fruits and vegetables, tires, beer and soft drinks, parachutes, steel, and wire. In 1991, Lesotho inaugurated a television assembly plant. As the number of mineworkers has declined steadily over the past several years, a small manufacturing base has developed based on farm products and a rapidly growing apparel-assembly sector. The garment industry has grown significantly, mainly due to Lesotho qualifying for the trade benefits contained in the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act. The economy is still primarily based on subsistence agriculture, especially livestock, although drought has decreased agricultural activity.

In the early 2000s, there was growth in the manufacturing sector of the economy. Industry held a strong average annual growth of 10% between 1988 and 1998, and accounted for 38% of GDP in 2001. The major industrial contributor in 2000 was the Highlands Water Project. Lesotho has no known oil or natural gas reserves. Oil exploration took place in the 1970s, but those efforts were unsuccessful and exploration ceased.


The Ministry of Agriculture, Cooperatives, and Marketing maintains a research station at Maseru, along with several experimental stations in the field. Lesotho's Geological Survey Department is headquartered in Maseru. The National University of Lesotho, founded in 1966 at Roma, has faculties of science and agriculture. Lesotho Agricultural College, founded in 1955, is located in Maseru.

In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 19% of college and university enrollments. In 2002, Lesotho had 42 researchers and 26 technicians per million people that were actively engaged in research and development (R&D).


Except for the northern regions, where Indians monopolized trading activities, domestic trade was handled by Europeans before independence. The Taiwanese also played a role. Nevertheless, more and more Basotho are currently taking out trading licenses. Traders play a central role in wool and mohair marketing, often acting as wool classers as well. The expertise of the traders varies widely. Some have regular suppliers and customers and maintain high quality, while others are prone to careless handling practices, lowering the market value of wool.

As of 2005, nearly 85% of the workforce was employed in some level of subsistence agriculture. About 35% of male wage earners had jobs in South Africa.

Normal business hours in urban areas are from 8 am to 1 pm and from 2 to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday, and from 8 am to 1 pm on Saturday. Banks are open from 8:30 am to 1 pm Monday through Friday, and 9:30 to 11 am on Saturday.


Lesotho's chief exports are clothing, shoes, and road vehicles. Manufacturing accounted for 65% of exports in 1996. Other exports include wool and mohair, and food and live animals (7% each). The main imports are food, building materials, vehicles, machinery, medicines, and petroleum products.

Exports grew an average of 18.1% from 1993 through 1996, but declined slightly in 1998. Between 2001 and 2005 exports grew dramatically from $278.6 million to $749.9 million, an increase of 169% within a four-year period. Merchandise imports grew by 16.2% in 1992, but then declined by 6.9% in 1993 and fell 7.4% in 1994. Imports picked up again between 1995 and 1997, but declined in 1998. Between 2001 and 2005 imports increased from $678.6 million to $1.4 billion, an increase of 103%. In 1996, 66% of exports went to the Southern African Customs Union, 26% to

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 358.0 799.6 -441.6
United States 159.2 13.8 145.4
South Africa 151.6 616.8 -465.2
Canada 24.8 0.3 24.5
Other Asia nes 13.7 44.6 -30.9
Belgium 2.8 1.0 1.8
France-Monaco 2.8 0.5 2.3
Italy-San Marino-Holy See 2.8 1.7 1.1
Ireland 0.1 0.1
() data not available or not significant.

North America, and 4% to the EU. Increasingly, the United States has become a favorite destination for Lesotho's exports. In 2003 Lesotho sent 80.1% of its exports to the United States, while 19.2% went to the countries of the Southern African Customs Union and 0.1% to the European Union (EU). During the same year the Southern African Customs Union provided 86% of Lesotho's imports, Asia, 13.2%, and the EU, 0.1%.


Lesotho's chronic balance-of-payments deficit was partially offset by the flow of cash and material goods from Basotho workers in South Africa, but the end of this system in 1999 caused a higher total debt than usual. Revenues from the highlands water project may offset losses.

The European Intelligence Unit reported that in 2005 the purchasing power parity of Lesotho's exports was $749.9 million while imports totaled $1380 million resulting in a trade deficit of $630.1 million.


Lesotho is a member of the Common Monetary Area. The 1974 agreement, which was revised in 1986, provided access to the South African capital market for the Lesotho banking system. Lesotho is responsible for its own monetary policy and controls its own financial institutions, but management of the rand currency and the gold and foreign exchange reserves of the rand area remains the sole responsibility of South Africa. In 1980, the Lesotho Monetary Authority (now the Central Bank of Lesotho) began issuing loti as the national currency, but the South African rand remained legal tender and the loti was pegged at par with the rand.

Demand for credit in the private sector was strong during the 1990s in response to growth in the manufacturing, services, and construction sectors. In contrast, claims on central government were reduced as a result of the IMF-supported Structural Adjustment

Current Account -118.8
     Balance on goods -381.2
         Imports -736.0
         Exports 354.8
     Balance on services -20.1
     Balance on income 161.4
     Current transfers 121.3
Capital Account 23.4
Financial Account 85.7
     Direct investment abroad
     Direct investment in Lesotho 80.8
     Portfolio investment assets
     Portfolio investment liabilities
     Financial derivatives
     Other investment assets 0.7
     Other investment liabilities 4.0
Net Errors and Omissions -115.7
Reserves and Related Items 125.3
() data not available or not significant.

Program; in fact, the government was a net saver with the domestic banking system in 1992. In the 1990s, interest rates remained positive in real terms and generally slightly higher than in South Africa due to higher margins.

The commercial bank sector is dominated by the government-owned Lesotho Bank and the South African-owned Stambic Bank which acquired Barclays Bank's interest in Lesotho. Lesotho Bank was privatized in 1999. The Lesotho Building Finance Corporation merged with Lesotho Bank in April 1993 to facilitate an increase in the scale of domestic mortgage lending. The Lesotho Agricultural Development Bank (LADB) had served to mobilize rural savings and provide agricultural credit, but it was liquidated in 2000.

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $150.1 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $231.5 million. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 13%.

No securities exchange was in operation in Lesotho as of 2003.


In 1995, there were at least three insurance companies operating in Lesotho. During the 1998 destruction of commercial life, most firms were not covered by insurance, lengthening the rebuilding process.


Proceeds from membership in a common customs union with South Africa form the majority of government revenue. Lesotho receives aid from myriad sources, including the United States, World Bank, United Kingdom, EU, and Germany.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Lesotho's central government took in revenues of approximately

Revenue and Grants 3,617 100.0%
     Tax revenue 2,887 79.8%
     Social contributions
     Grants 178 4.9%
     Other revenue 552 15.3%
Expenditures 3,564 100.0%
     General public services
     Public order and safety
     Economic affairs
     Environmental protection
     Housing and community amenities
     Recreational, culture, and religion
     Social protection
() data not available or not significant.

$738.5 million and had expenditures of $792.1 million. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$53.6 million. Total external debt was $735 million.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2003, the most recent year for which it had data, central government revenues were m3,617 millionand expenditures were m3,564 million. The value of revenues in US dollars was us$478 million, based on a principal exchange rate for 2003 of us$1 = m7.56475 as reported by the IMF.


In 1960, a review of the tax structure was undertaken with a view toward ending the dual tax system, which made a distinction between Basotho and non-Basotho. It was decided that a basic tax, previously paid only by Basotho, would be paid by all male residents. A graded tax and a scaled income tax, both payable by all persons irrespective of race or sex, were subsequently imposed. The maximum tax rate for individuals is 35%, and corporations are taxed at a flat rate of 35%. Manufacturing companies are subject to a reduced 15% rate. A 25% withholding tax is paid on dividends, interest and royalties. However, manufacturing companies pay a 15% withholding rate on dividends and royalties. Lesotho has a value-added tax (VAT) system with a standard rate of 14%. However, the VAT for liquor is 15%, while electricity and telecommunications are subject to a 5% VAT.


Customs and duties constitute the predominant source of ordinary revenue. Lesotho, together with Swaziland, Botswana, and Namibia, is a member of a customs union with South Africa; consequently, no tariffs exist on most goods moving among them. South Africa levies and collects the bulk of the customs, sales, and excise duties for the five countries, paying a share determined by an established formula of total customs collections to the other four. Imports from outside the customs union, regardless of ultimate destination, are subject to the same tariff rates.


The government actively encourages foreign investment, particularly investment in manufacturing plants and agricultural projects. The Lesotho National Development Corp. promotes industrial estates, with such attractions as a 15-year discretionary tax holiday or accelerated depreciation allowances, plus LNDC capital participation of up to 25%.

Annual foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow into Lesotho was $269 million in 1997, but declined steadily for the rest of the decade, amounting to $119 million in 2000. For the period 1997 to 2000, net FDI equaled over one-fifth (21.8%) of its GDP, the highest such ratio in the world. Most FDI is concentrated in textiles, garments, and light manufacture.


The Lesotho government's development objectives are based on a food-security policy approach, built around small-scale irrigated agriculture projects and improved rural water supplies. Donors supported the fourth five-year plan (198891) with pledges of $390 million. Lesotho receives development assistance from the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, South Africa, Canada, Taiwan, the European Union, the World Bank, and various United Nations agencies.

In 2001, Lesotho negotiated a three-year $35 million Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) Arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Unemployment, poverty, and the HIV/AIDS pandemic are challenges facing further economic development. The sale of the state telecommunications company in 2001 stood as evidence of Lesotho's continuing privatization program. The government in 2003 was committed to public sector reform and market-friendly policies, as illustrated by its support for the Lesotho Public Sector Improvement and Reform Project.

A review of Lesotho's economic performance in 2005 by the IMF welcomed the marked improvement seen across a range of macroeconomic indicators in recent years, noting in particular the lower fiscal deficits and improved balance-of-payments position. It also welcomed the government's commitment to increasing institutional capacity in order to better implement and monitor public spending programs, which will now be formulated in the context of a poverty reduction strategy. However, the IMF indicated that there was room for improvements in the economic policies in order for Lesotho to enhance labor skills, clear bottlenecks in infrastructure and public-sector delivery, and remove legal and administrative impediments to investment.


In the past, many social welfare programs were organized on the local level or by missions. But the need for concerted action to alleviate hardships brought about by the severe droughts led to the creation in 1965 of a Social Welfare Department under the Ministry of Health (later the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare). Community development teams stimulate local initiative by conducting courses and forming voluntary community development committees. The Homemakers' Association, an organization long active in social welfare, has given family-management courses in remote areas under a grant from the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief (Oxfam).

The roles of women are limited by law and by tradition. Married women are considered legal minors under customary law. They are unable to sign any contract and have no legal standing in a court of law. Domestic violence is also a widespread problem although it is considered unacceptable behavior. The government has pledged to improve the rights of women. Limited resources limit the ability of government to implement child welfare programs.

Some human rights violations were reported, including excessive use of force by police, long pretrial delays, and poor prison conditions. Crime is a serious problem in Lesotho.


Lesotho's major health problems, such as pellagra and kwashiorkor, stem from poor nutrition and inadequate hygiene. It was estimated that 44% of children under five years of age were considered malnourished. Famines have resulted from periodic droughts. Approximately 91% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 92% had adequate sanitation.

Tuberculosis and venereal diseases are also serious problems. Children up to one year old were vaccinated at the following rates: tuberculosis, 55%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 58%; polio, 66%; and measles, 82%. Rates for DPT and measles were, respectively, 85% and 77%. About 43% of children suffered from goiter.

The government of Lesotho is working to rehabilitate two hospitals and is making an overall effort to strengthen health care services. In 2004, there were 5 physicians, 1 pharmacist, and 60 nurses per 100,000 people. Approximately 80% of the population had access to health care services.

As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at, respectively, 30.7 and 16.8 per 1,000 people. The infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births was 88.75 in 2005. The total fertility rate has steadily declined to 4.4 children per woman. Of married women aged 1549, contraceptives were used by 23%. Estimated life expectancy in 2006 was 34.47 years, the third shortest in the world.

The AIDS crisis in Lesotho is severe. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 28.90 per 100 adults in 2003, the third highest in the world. As of 2004, there were approximately 320,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 29,000 deaths from AIDS in 2003.


The Lesotho Housing and Land Development Corp. builds new housing for sale and rent, and a government-supported development program is building low-cost housing. The government has also begun to encourage private investment and ownership of housing through privatization of banking and legal reforms, the latter of which include the Law Reform Commission and the Land Policy Review Commission, which have been working on legislation to allow women equal rights in access to credit and land ownership.


A by-product of the long history of missionary activity in Lesotho was the relatively comprehensive development of education. Education is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 13. Primary school covers 7 years of study, followed by 3 years of junior secondary school, and 2 years of high school. Students may choose to attend craft schools after primary school instead of junior high. Those who complete junior high may opt for a two-year trade school instead of senior high. The languages of instruction are Sesotho and English. From the fifth year of primary school onwards, all instruction is conducted in English. The academic year runs from August to May.

In 2001, about 21% of children between the ages of three and five were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 86% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 22% of age-eligible students; 18% for boys and 27% for girls. It is estimated that about 67% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 47:1 in 2003.

The University of Lesotho, Botswana, and Swaziland (formerly known as Pius XII College), founded in 1964 at Roma, was unilaterally dissolved in October 1975 by Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan, who then renamed it the National University of Lesotho. Lesotho Agricultural College, at Maseru, was founded in 1955. In 2003, about 3% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 81.4%, with 73.7% for men and 90.3% for women.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 8.9% of GDP, or 18.5% of total government expenditures.


The Government Archive in Maseru has records dating from 1869. The Lesotho National Library, also in the capital, holds 88,000 volumes. The Thomas Mofolo Library at the National University of Lesotho is the largest library in the country with more than 170,000 books. The British Council maintains a library in Maseru, with 6,270 volumes and there is a library of 10,000 volumes at the Lesotho Agricultural College. The National Teachers Training College in Maseru also has a notable library. The Lesotho National Library Service, founded in 1976, sponsors three public library branches: Leribe, Mafeteng, and Mokhotlong. The Lesotho Library Association was founded in 1978. The Lesotho National Museum, at Maseru, has collections on archaeology, ethnography, and geology. The Morija Museum has collections in the same fields.


The government operates postal and telephone services; the exchange at Maseru has been automatic since 1963. An earth-satellite station was opened in 1986. In 2003, there were an estimated 13 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 21,000 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. The same year, there were approximately 42 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

Government-owned Radio Lesotho broadcasts in English and Sesotho; it is the only station with a national range. There were seven privately owned radio stations in the country in 2005. The government-owned Lesotho Television is the only television station in the country. In 2003, there were an estimated 61 radios and 35 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, 10 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet.

Mphatlalatsane is a daily Sesotho newspaper published in Maseru, with a 2002 circulation of 4,000. The Moeletsi oa Basotho is a weekly published by the Roman Catholic Church with a circulation of 20,000. The Lesotho Evangelical Church also publishes a newspaper, Leselinyana le Lesotho (The Light of Lesotho ), which comes out every other week with a circulation of 15,000. Other newspapers, with their 2002 circulations, include Lentsoe la Basotho (14,000) and Lesotho Today (7,000), both weeklies published by the Department of Information; Mohlanka (6,000); Moafrika (3,500); Makatolle (2,000); and the English weekly, The Mirror (4,000).

The Constitution provides freedom of speech and the press, and the government is said to respect these rights in practice.


Cooperative unions that are partly government-financed and government-sponsored, consumer cooperatives, artisan cooperatives, and the Progressive Farmers play an important part in economic and social development. There are also more than 100 active agricultural marketing and credit societies.

National youth organizations include the Association of Youth Cultural Clubs, Lesotho Scouts Association, Lesotho Work Camps Association, YMCA/YWCA, Lesotho Youth Federation, and the Student Representative Council of Lesotho. There are several sports organizations and clubs throughout the country, including branches of the Special Olympics. The Lesotho National Council of Women offers programs and activities to support and promote the development of women.

Volunteer service organizations, such as the Lions Clubs International, are present. The Red Cross, Caritas, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and Habitat for Humanity are active in the country.


The Lesotho National Tourist Board promotes tourism, which is increasing but still underdeveloped.

Permanent tourist camps are established in remote scenic areas for pony-trekking parties. The first such camp, consisting of bath and kitchen-equipped grass huts, was built at Marakabeis, near the end of the Mountain Road. Although lacking in game, Lesotho has spectacular natural attractions in its mountains and in Malutsenyane Falls, as well as excellent trout-fishing grounds. The rock paintings near Teyateyaneng are also a potentially important tourist site. The country's first national park, Sehlabathebe Mountain National Park, was established in 1970 in the Qacha's Nek District. There is a gambling casino in Maseru, along with mountain resorts and lodges.

Visas are not required for stays of up to 30 days, but a valid passport, proof of sufficient funds, and onward/return ticket are necessary. Vaccination against yellow fever is highly recommended and sometimes required. In 2003, there were 360,955 foreign visitors who arrived in Lesotho. Of the visitors, 230,946 came from South Africa.

In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the daily expenses for travel in Maseru at $181; in other areas, $84.


Moshoeshoe (or Moshesh, 17861870), a chief of the Bakoena tribe in what was then northern Basutoland, is acclaimed as the founder of the Basotho nation. Moshoeshoe II (193896) served as king of Lesotho from October 1966 until January 1996, when he was killed in an automobile accident. Crown Prince Letsie David Mohato (b.1963), who had served as king during his father's 198994 exile, returned to the throne in February 1996 as King Letsie III. Chief Leabua Jonathan (191487), prime minister of Lesotho from its inception until 1986, was a leader in the drive for independence.


Lesotho has no territories or colonies.


D and B's Export Guide to Lesotho. Parsippany, N.J.: Dun and Bradstreet, 1999.

Eldredge, Elizabeth A. A South African Kingdom: The Pursuit of Security in Nineteenth-century Lesotho. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Lundahl, Mats. In the Shadow of South Africa: Lesotho's Economic Future. Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate, 2003.

Machobane, L. B. B. J. Government and Change in Lesotho, 18001966: A Study of Political Institutions. New York: St. Martin's, 1990.

McElrath, Karen (ed.). HIV and AIDS: A Global View. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002.

Murray, Jon. South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. London, Eng.: Lonely Planet Publications, 2000.

Rosenberg, Scott, Richard F. Weisenfelder, and Michelle FrisbieFulton. Historical Dictionary of Lesotho. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow, 2003.

Zeilig, Leo and David Seddon. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Africa. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2005.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Lesotho." Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations. . 22 Nov. 2017 <>.

"Lesotho." Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations. . (November 22, 2017).

"Lesotho." Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations. . Retrieved November 22, 2017 from



Basic Data
Official Country Name: Kingdom of Lesotho
Region: Africa
Population: 2,143,141
Language(s): Sesotho, English, Zulu,Xhosa
Literacy Rate: 71.3%
Academic Year: January-December
Number of Primary Schools: 1,249
Compulsory Schooling: 7 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 8.4%
Foreign Students in National Universities: 133
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 374,628
  Secondary: 68,132
  Higher: 4,614
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 108%
  Secondary: 31%
  Higher: 2%
Teachers: Primary: 7,898
  Secondary: 2,878
  Higher: 574
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 47:1
  Secondary: 24:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 114%
  Secondary: 36%
  Higher: 3%

History & Background

The Kingdom of Lesotho, a land of sunny skies and pleasant climate, was formerly known as Basutoland. A tiny mountain country, Lesotho is completely surrounded by South Africa, and Lesotho's history is closely related to that of its powerful neighbor. When wars swept southern Africa during the late 1700s and early 1800s and wiped out large numbers of the population, remnants of the various nations fled into the highlands of what is now Lesotho. Moshoeshoe (pronounced Mo-shwe-shwe) the Great gave them protection. Building a stronghold called Thaba Bosiu (Mountain of Night) about fifteen miles from the capital city of Maseru, in 1824 Moshoeshoe united his approximately 21,000 followers into the Basotho nation. Known for his wisdom and statesmanship, Moshoeshoe is the subject of many works in African literature. The spirit of Moshoeshoe lives on in the pride of the citizens of Lesotho in their independence, their traditional crafts, and in their families.

In the mid-nineteenth century, from 1856 to 1868, the British and the Boer settlers tried unsuccessfully to defeat the Basotho. When in 1868 Moshoeshoe asked Britain for protection, Basutoland became a British Protectorate. After Moshoeshoe died in 1870, the territory was placed under the rule of the British Cape Colony, which tried to disarm the Basotho but was repulsed. In 1884 Basutoland was reestablished as a British protectorate governed by a British colonial administrator. Whites were forbidden to acquire land, and Britain ensured that Basutoland would not be absorbed by neighboring white-ruled colonies. In 1966 the protectorate of Basutoland became the independent Kingdom of Lesotho. During the 1980s political instability in South Africa, where 250,000 Lesotho nationals worked in mines, and South African control of the Highland Water Project, exacerbated Lesotho's own internal conflicts. A bloodless military coup in 1986 led to several years of changing government structures and political instability. In 1998 South Africa and Botswana intervened in an outbreak of civil violence that devastated the capital city Maseru.

In 2001 King Letsie III ruled as the head of a parliamentary constitutional monarchy. There being little land suitable for agriculture, the people of Lesotho are primarily herders who live in small family units far from their neighbors. The people speak Sesotho (also known as southern Sotho), a Bantu language they share with many of the Bantu inhabitants of South Africa from whom they were separated by the boundaries imposed on Africa by the European colonial powers. English is the second official language.

Historical Evolution: French missionaries of the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society first brought Western formal education to Lesotho during the 1830s. The schools were few in number and low in enrollment. Schools concentrated on teaching reading and writing at a very elementary level and teaching simple vocational skills for boys and housecrafts for girls. In the second half of the nineteenth century, Roman Catholic missionaries settled in Lesotho and also opened schools. During the 1930's Roman Catholicism expanded, and by the middle of the 1980s, the Roman Catholic Church and the Lesotho Evangelical Church, the successor of the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society, each enrolled 40 percent of the country's primary school student population. The focus in the early days was on religious purposes and economic necessity. Secondary schools only came into being in 1948 when the first four were built, of which only one had senior classes. Examinations for junior and senior secondary schools were set in South Africa until 1961 when the senior schools switched from the South African Matriculation exam to the Cambridge Overseas School Certificate (COSC).

Thus, for more than a century education was almost exclusively the domain of the missionaries. Even though Lesotho was a Protectorate, the British had no real interest in the education of the Basotho, and until after Independence in 1966, the missionaries were responsible for most aspects of educationschool organization, curriculum provision, payment of teachers' salaries, teacher professional support, and provision of facilities. Much of the time church halls were used as classrooms, and often teaching and learning were conducted in the open air. Lesotho's harsh winters were not conducive to effective learning.

Originally teacher training was done in colleges governed by the missions. In 1947 there were four colleges, and this was increased to seven by 1959. In 1975 the National Teacher Training College replaced the various small Teacher Training Colleges operated mainly by churches. Missions were equally concerned with vocational training, and "industrial schools" were founded to teach both boys and girls relevant skills. The Lerotholi Technical Institute was founded after the people of Lesotho, on the initiative of Paramount Chief Lerotholi, contributed money toward the building costs. During the 1970s the Lerotholi Polytechnic was expanded, and vocational subjects were introduced in a number of high schools.

Whenever possible citizens of the then Basutoland would go to neighboring South Africa, a fellow British Commonwealth country, to obtain an education. However, when South Africa introduced the Bantu Education Act, its first educational legislation bringing into effect the segregationist values espoused by apartheid, the landlocked mountainous nation had no option but to develop its own educational programs, and today its education system reflects little of South Africa's system. The Lesotho educational system has, in several respects, developed in opposition to that evolving in South Africa. Lesotho's geo-political situation has encouraged a certain amount of external financial aid, a great deal of which has been for educational development. Consequently, multinational characteristics are apparent in some of the developing educational structures.

Yet, despite the outside help, and even though the government of this country has been involved in education since the 1920s, sharing responsibility for its provision with the churches, much of the formal education system is still run by missions and is largely administered by the three largest churchesthe Roman Catholic Church, the Lesotho Evangelical Church, and the Anglican Church of Lesothounder the direction of the Ministry of Education. Until the mid-1970s Lesotho shared a common examinations board and a common university with the other two former British Protectorates in the region, Swaziland and Botswana.

Lesotho, with one of the highest literacy rates in Africa of 72 percent for males and 93 percent for females, has a traditionally British-style formal education system that still is Euro-centric rather than Afro-centric. The Cambridge Overseas School Certificate (COSC), set in England, is the final external exam that students take at the end of Form E, the fifth year of high school. The criteria for education and examinations, as well as the higher education that follows the school leaving exam, are thus still to a large extent set in England and not in Maseru. English is both the medium of instruction and a subject taught. It is compulsory to obtain a pass in English if one wishes to pass the COSC. Other areas of the curriculum such as history, geography, biology show evidence of similar concerns. None of the textbooks are written for the African situation. Most references are to flora and fauna, or geographical places that occur only in Europe and the United States. Historical events are never portrayed from an African perspective. Abstract concepts provide few opportunities for practical, hands on learning experiences. Attempts to complement materials received from England and from the United States have been undertaken.

At Independence in 1966 the United Nations and donor agencies helped identify the educational programs they felt most needed to be supported and supplied "experts," mostly of foreign origin, and funds. The focus was on curriculum development, and national programs became attached to international activities. When the efforts of the United Nations and other donor agencies slowed, the World Bank became one of Lesotho's chief educational advisers. While the Bank stressed "selfreliance," it also focused on the perceived need of its financial backers and of transnational corporations to make the largest possible profit. Consequently, there was what many have described as a new kind of economic colonialism. The focus in education was less on what the people in the country needed to help their children mature to their true potential and more on the need to educate and train workers who would supply the international markets with goods and services. Because of the inherited structures of authority that place complete trust in the wisdom of the King, and as parents were often illiterate and unable to fulfil their role of letting the King know their wishes and anxieties, educational structures foreign to the needs and the character of the people of Lesotho have once again been imposed on them. The criteria set for them by others cannot be met. The resultant descent into international debt and the consequent destruction of the education system, which has become less important than the servicing of the international debt, will continue to put education far beyond the reach of many.

Political, Social, & Cultural Bases: As has been the case in other African countries, Lesotho's choice of English as a national language and as the medium of instruction, in a country where Sesotho is the mother tongue for the majority of the people, has created a dilemma for educators and students alike. Officially the medium of instruction in Lesotho's schools is Sesotho until about the fourth grade when the medium of instruction becomes English. In reality, however, a mixture of languages is often used until secondary schools, and even then students have very little opportunity to use English. The National University of Lesotho has special programs to improve the communication skills of new entrants. These programs do not, however, come to grips with the under-lying issues faced by students and educators in the Kingdom of Lesotho.

It is an extremely exacting requirement for students whose first language is Sesotho to speak English as fluently as those who speak it as a first language, to study all subjects in a language totally foreign in style, cultural base and concept to their own, and to have to compete with others in their mother tongue. Furthermore, in a newly independent nation, being able to decide on the national language rather than having one imposed on the country, is a moment of great national and cultural pride. Not being able to use that language as the medium of instruction throughout the education system creates the implicit suggestion that country's own language is inadequate and therefore inferior. And this is definitely not a desirable attitude to have in a nation that is going through the process of decolonization.

Since one-half the world's scientific knowledge is available in English and those who have attained the necessary English language skills have access to the international world of science, technology, commerce, and politics as well as the Internet, it would seem that a Euro-centric bias in education would allow greater access to international education and research. It can, however, also be seen as one of the reasons for the high failure and drop out rate, especially in those cases where students are not adequately prepared to live between two cultures in a way their parents were never expected to.

The dichotomy that the children of Lesotho live in becomes apparent when one remembers that, even in modern times, traditional African society is centered around the extended family homestead, the principal social unit. Education of the young is the responsibility of the entire community that tries to instill values of respect and obedience. Each member of the community shares responsibility for the whole community. Thus, asking a young boy to be a herd boy and take responsibility for the community's cattle and sheep is not considered child labor, but merely the chore assigned to this member of the community. The whole community transmits the cultural knowledge, ways, and traditions that are related to children's surroundings, to prepare them not only for adulthood and for employment, but for every stage of life, from birth to what is called being "almost an ancestor."

By contrast, Western formal education, an import often in direct contrast to traditional African education, strives for change. It relies less on the lived values and knowledge of the community than on curriculum and an abstract examination system set by faceless entities. In Lesotho's case the latter are totally uninvolved people who reside somewhere in Britain, setting the Cambridge Overseas School Certificate with British children in mind who have grown up far from the arid mountain regions of Lesotho. The students of Lesotho negotiate this cultural rift every day, yet little attention has been paid to helping them deal with what can often be an almost schizophrenic experience between two realities. Despite the disruptive nature of Western style formal education, parents generally wish their children to have access to a Western style education, especially because it will give access to formal sector employment. Yet, they also wish them to be grounded in the traditional practices of the Lesotho culture. At present the students in Lesotho's education system have few role models who can accompany them on this path.

The process of acculturation and of learning to live between cultures is made even more difficult for the children of Lesotho when fathers are part of the migrant labor force and spend long periods in the gold mines of South Africa and the mothers have to take on more responsibility than usual. The continuous absence of large numbers of the male population is destructive to cultural structures in general. The extended family system has traditionally provided a great deal of security for all its members. Yet with so many of its members gone, there is a new tension that has lasting effects on the academic progress of Lesotho's children. Consequently, the place of the children in the society often becomes ambiguous, and they exhibit negative attitudes toward formal learning. The absence of fathers could be part of the problem behind both the high drop out rate in Lesotho's schools and the relatively small number of students who go beyond primary school.

Approximately 25 percent of children do not attend school, particularly in rural areas where families involved in subsistence activities need the help of their children to survive. In many cases families cannot afford the costs associated with school attendance. Uniforms, books, and other educational materials are beyond the means of many families where family stress, poverty, the spread of HIV/AIDS, and divorce have led to a rise in child homelessness and abandonment, creating growing numbers of street children. Boys are more affected by nonattendance than girls. Even though in traditional rural Basotho society, livestock herding by young boys is a rite of passage and a prerequisite to manhood in the community, the absence of fathers makes this a heavy burden when boys must often tend flocks all day for months at a time. The legal working age is twelve.

Some of the main challenges facing Lesotho's educators are the lack of financial resources needed to meet the growing demand for well educated local teachers, the need for literacy and for vocational and technical training outside the formal academic setting. Attempts are being made to introduce more practical subjects and so to make education relevant. However, one of the spillovers of British education is that these subjects are still regarded as second rate, inferior to a purely academic education that leads to a position of status in the community as well as to white collar jobs.

In 1998, the government announced plans to eliminate school fees to help more children gain access to education. Yet, although the government has devoted substantial resources to primary and secondary education, and education takes up approximately 25 percent of the country's budget, children's rights and welfare have not been adequately addressed.

Education is not compulsory even at primary levels as the government lacks the resources to finance it fully. This situation is due partially to the increasing international debt, and Lesotho's increasing structural dependence on the rest of the world, South Africa in particular. The country is increasingly reliant upon remittances from migrant workers. Additionally, the interests rates imposed on foreign loans made by the international banks and the restructuring demands made by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, affects the country's ability to provide essential health and education services.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

After Independence, education in Lesotho did not attain the hoped for results. By 1977 the drop out rate continued to be high, the quality of education deteriorated, and student and teacher motivation declined. Instead of appointing another Commission of Inquiry that would function in the usual top-down bureaucratic manner, the government organized a Pitso, a nationwide dialogue on education. Using the traditional channels of authority and communication, this dialogue started in the Chief's Courts in the various villages and culminated in a national Education Dialogue in Maseru. This commission directly involved the people at the grassroots level making those most affected by education participants rather than a target group for a "learned commission." Recommendations were made that influenced a number of developments in education. Following these recommendations the Lesotho Government decided on an Education Sector Survey Task Force that made recommendations on all aspects of the education process. It remains difficult to provide education for all, to respond to the needs of the people, yet still meet the developmental needs of Lesotho and the increasing demands of a profit oriented capitalist world intent on globalization. However, despite all these obstacles, some of the results are to be seen in significant developments that took place shortly after the Maseru Education Dialogue.

An efficient nonformal Distance Teaching Center and a Curriculum Development Center have been set up. A book supply unit has been set up, and a program to build classrooms was launched. Two associations dealing with formal and nonformal education were formed: the Lesotho Educational Research Association (for formal education) and the Lesotho Association (for nonformal education).

Educational SystemOverview

Lesotho's school system consists of twelve school years. The seven years of primary, or junior school (Grades 1-7), culminate in the Primary School Leaving Certificate. The three years of junior secondary school (high schoolForms A, B, C) culminate in the Junior Certificate (JC). The two years of higher secondary school (high schoolForms DE) lead to the Cambridge Overseas School Certificate (COSC) at the Ordinary Level (O levels).

There are very high dropout rates throughout primary and secondary school. In 1990, 22.6 percent of students enrolled in primary education were repeaters. The government has insufficient resources to provide enough secondary schools and to provide alternate education or training for those who do not complete primary or secondary school. Poverty and traditional constraints play a major role here.

Preprimary & Primary Education

General Survey: There are very few preprimary or nursery schools in Lesotho and only one in Maseru. Near-ly all preprimary schools are privately operated. Consequently, only a very small percentage of children are enrolled.

While the Ministry of Education has authority over syllabuses and examinations, and the government aids individual schools, often by subsidizing the salaries of some of the teachers, most primary schools are operated by the missions of the three main religious churches. Influenced by the British colonial system, primary education, for which a tuition fee is charged and which is not compulsory, consists of seven levels called standards. Until the end of 1966, there was an eight-year primary system, beginning with Grades A and B and continuing through Standards 1-6. The seven-year primary school system was introduced in 1967. In 1980 only 12 percent of those who entered Standard 1 completed Standard 7. In 1990 only 14 percent of children who entered primary school proceeded to secondary education.

At the age of six or seven, children attend comprehensive, academically oriented schools and study a core of general education subjects. Sesotho is the medium of instruction in the early grades, and English is taught as a school subject. The transfer to English is made as soon as possible, during the third or fourth year of schooling, and definitely by the time students reach high school. Sesotho is then taught as a school subject. Other subjects taught are mathematics, science, and social science. Gardening, handiwork, needlework, physical training, art, music, handwriting, and religious knowledge are also offered.

Often there are much older children and even some adults in the elementary school classrooms. However, this circumstance is not as common as it used to be when Western style formal education was first introduced, and it is not generally regarded as a problem either by the students or the teachers.

At the completion of the seventh year of junior school, an exam prepared by the Department of Education is administered. The result of this exam is the most important criterion for admission into secondary education, or high school. However, because of the shortage of secondary school places, passing the Lesotho Primary School Leaving Certificate, does not guarantee admission into a high school. Only about one in seven or eight of the more than 113,000 students enrolled in primary school can go on to secondary school.

Urban & Rural Schools: Primary school teaching varies in the different areas and is largely dependent on the qualification and level of sophistication of the teachers. The latter will vary in the rural and in the urban areas. The acute shortage of teachers has of necessity led to the use of unqualified teachers.

Secondary Education

General Survey: More than 60 secondary schools in Lesotho provide an education for approximately 20,000 students. Once students have completed their primary education and parents can afford tuition and board, students begin secondary education, or high school. Entrance into a secondary school depends on whether students have passed the Primary School Leaving Certificate Exam and whether seats are available in a secondary school. Secondary education is neither free nor compulsory, fees are charged for tuition and books, and all secondary schools are comprehensive, geared towards the goal of obtaining entrance to a university. More recently more practical education in the form of optional vocational courses are being offered. Most schools provide study periods within the school day for preparation of homework. Extracurricular activities such as sports and clubs occur after the school day. Many schools provide boarding facilities for students.

CurriculumExaminations, Diplomas: Forms A through C, the first three years of junior secondary school, lead to the Junior Certificate (JC), administered originally by the Examinations Council of Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland, but more recently by the Lesotho Ministry of Education. Forms D and E, the last two years of High School, prepare students for the Cambridge Overseas School Certificate (COSC) Examinations at the Ordinary (O) level. Only three schools in the three countries, and none in Lesotho, offer classes that lead to the Advanced (A) level examinations. As the JC is the most common entry-level qualification for employment, there has been greater emphasis on the curriculum for Forms A through C. Consequently, the syllabus leading up to the O level exam has often been unrelated to the syllabus of the previous years, causing students to have to cram the entire syllabus into their last two years of study. Efforts have been made for greater coordination between the two levels.

The curriculum leading to the JC exam is based on seven subjects a year, with forty 40-minute periods each week. The core subjects are Englishnine periods a week; integrated scienceeight periods a week; mathematicsseven periods a week; Sesothofour periods a week. Four periods a week are devoted to development studies, geography, or history. And four periods are devoted to a practical subject such as agricultural studies, typing or bookkeeping, domestic science, or woodwork.

In order to comply with the requirements of the Cambridge Overseas School Certificate Examinations (COSC), the Lesotho Ministry of Education recommends that students choose the arts curriculum that consists of seven subjects requiring forty periods per week and requiring the following subjects: the core curriculumEnglish language, five periods per week; English literature, four periods per week; mathematics, seven periods per week; biology, seven periods per week; Sesotho or French, five hours per week; development studies, geography, or history, four or five hours per week of two subjects from the group; one practical subject, five hours per week.

Should students wish to follow the Cambridge Science Curriculum, the core curriculum consists of five periods per week of English language, seven periods per week of mathematics, five or six periods per week of biology, and eight hours per week of physical science.

Promotion at the end of each year is based on final exams and on overall evaluation of the students' work during the year. The principal, the teachers, and the community set the grading standards. Often grading standards vary due to the fluctuating availability of teachers and because some courses are often not taught in the more remote parts of the country. Consequently, the examination results do not always reflect the students' aptitude for further education.

Increasingly there has been diversification at the secondary school level. At the JC level technical and commercial subjects are available. And in Forms D and E, agricultural and higher primary teacher training is offered. More than 50 percent of students in Lesotho leave school after Form C. The high dropout rate is largely due to the fact that tuition, books, and boarding are too expensive for students from that part of the world.

Teachers: Secondary school teachers are, theoretically, trained at the postsecondary level. In practice, however, there is a severe shortage of qualified secondary school teachers and those who are qualified will often elect not to teach in remote areas or in areas where there is no electricity or running water. Courses offered depend on the ability of any area to attract qualified teachers. As a result of the teacher shortage, there is a heavy reliance on expatriate teachers, in some areas as high as twothirds, supplied amongst others by the United States or through the Peace Corps. This state of affairs provides neither continuity nor cultural understanding of the pupils in the educational system.

Higher Education

In the first half of the twentieth century, Basotho students could study at Fort Hare College (the University of Fort Hare) in the Cape Province in South Africa. The colonial government paid the college three hundred pounds per year for this service and was represented at its board of governors. In 1958 this agreement was terminated by South Africa.

The National University of Lesotho situated in Roma, about 34 kilometers. from Maseru, the University of Botswana, and the University of Swaziland are offshoots of a common university. The Universities had their origin in the Pius XII College, a Catholic University College that was founded by the Roman Catholic Hierarchy of Southern Africa on April 8, 1945 on a temporary site at Roma. The objective of the College was to provide African Catholic students with a post-matriculation (high school exit exam) and religious education. In 1946 the College moved to its permanent site, and by 1959 the student population had increased to 171 students from the original five. By 1963 the number of students had grown to 180 and necessary facilities had been added.

From 1954 to 1964, Pius XII College was an "Associate College" of the University of South Africa in Pretoria, a distance education institution that examined the students and offered degrees in Arts, Science, Commerce, and Education. In the early 1960s, as apartheid legislation in South Africa became more restrictive, problems arose with regard to student residence requirements. Consequently an independent, non-denominational university was established by Royal Charter through the High Commission for Basutoland, Bechuanaland, and Swaziland. On January 1, 1964, under a Charter granted by Queen Elizabeth II of England, the Pius XII College became an integral part of the independent, nondenominational University of Basutoland, Bechuanaland Protectorate, and Swaziland. The University was funded equally by the governments of all three countries, but the main campus was in Lesotho, and there was no university presence in the other two countries, with the exception of the beginnings of the Faculty of Agriculture in Luyengo, Swaziland. After independence in 1966, campuses were established in Gaborone, Botswana, and in Kwaluseni, Swaziland. In 1966, after independence was granted to the present day Botswana and Lesotho, the name was changed to the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland, which offered its first degrees in 1967 in four-year programs in Science and Education, and a Law degree which included two years of study at the University of Edinburgh.

On October 20, 1975, the Roma campus in Lesotho withdrew to become the National University of Lesotho. In 2001, the student population was around two thousand, of which about twenty were postgraduate (master's degree or higher) students. Degrees are offered in the faculties of Agriculture, Humanities, Law, Science, Social Science, and Education. Advanced degrees are offered in the faculties of Education, Humanities, and Social Sciences. The University also houses the Institute of Extra Mural Studies, the Institute of Southern African Studies, and the Institute of Education.

Admission requirements to degree courses are the COSC with a credit in English language and in mathematics if the student wishes to follow the B.Sc. Program or the Matriculation Certificate of the Republic of South Africa, provided credit has been gained for English at the Higher Grade Level. Bachelor's degree programs are generally four years in duration with the academic year broken into two semesters of fifteen weeks each. A final exam is administered at the end of each year. In the grading system, the grade of A, a First Class degree, is rarely given. Grades of B and C are considered very strong grades and to receive a D is to receive a respectable grade. In order to receive a degree, an overall D average must be obtained.

In line with the British influence, master's degree programs are normally research oriented, though some course work may be required. Master's degrees are offered in the Arts, Science, and in Education. Ph.D. programs are research oriented. The professors at the National University of Lesotho are well qualified. Many are expatriates, which gives the university an international character.

At the National University of Lesotho, the building housing the Thomas Mofolo Library, named after the Mosotho author Thomas Mofolo, was built with funds provided by the World Council of Churches and the World University Services. It was officially opened on April 1, 1966. The library has more than 125,000 volumes of books and bound periodicals, and its Information System is currently being automated. The library is to join the Southern African Bibliographic Network based in South Africa and to use its facilities to catalogue library materials and inter-library lending and is preparing records for input into the Pan African Development information System based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The library houses the BOLESWA collection, the materials concerning the Universities of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland, and is a depository of United Nations materials in Lesotho.

The National University of Lesotho has offered part-time courses since 1960 when it instituted in-service courses for teachers as well as the Postgraduate Certificate in Education and the Bachelor of Education (also a postgraduate degree). During the 1994-1995 academic year it was decided to use distance education methods to reach students from all over the country. The Institute of Extra-Mural Studies is headquartered in Maseru and has regional centers, which can be used as resource centers for part-time learners in the south, the north, and in the mountains. Courses are offered through the medium of printed correspondence texts, audio, and video materials, tutorial support, monthly two-day weekend meetings, four week residential courses, and, where possible, through video cassettes and radio broadcasts.

Nonformal Education

Vocational Education: Two types of technical and vocational education are available: (1) pre-service vocational education in fields that include agriculture, commerce, or nursing, obtained in a school setting within a formalized system of education; (2) in-service, out-of-school education where apprenticeship is the primary element of the program. Most of these programs, though supported by the government, have been established with foreign technical and financial assistance and are influenced by foreign educational systems.

The Lerotholi Technical Institute (LTI) in Maseru offers training in basic engineering, bricklaying, carpentry, electronics, electrical installation, and plumbing. The Commercial Training Institute, attached to L.T.I, offers secretarial subjects and a technical training school trains supervisors for the road department. The admission requirement to the Institute is the JC, and the programs are two or three years in duration.

Full-time, residential agricultural colleges offer courses in agriculture and domestic sciences to students with a JC and a two-year Diploma in Agriculture to those with the COSC with passes in at least math, science, and English. The Ministry of Agriculture, rather than the Ministry of Education, is responsible for these colleges.

Formal & Nonformal Distance Education: It is not always easy to distinguish between formal and nonformal education. Because of economic constraints and the physical terrain of the country, school provision is often inadequate and large numbers of the population obtain higher education through distance education. Prior to 1974 correspondence education had been provided from institutions operating from South Africa to the few who could afford the services. In 1974 the Lesotho Distance Teaching Centre (LDTC) was established by the International Extension College (IEC) at the request of the Lesotho Government's Ministry of Education so as to democratize the education system. The services offered by the Centre span the formal and nonformal sectors of the country's educational system and reflect the Lesotho government's vision of the role of education in the development process. As the level of literacy was low, especially among the large proportion of the population living in the mountainous rural areas, LDTC provides basic practical skills to these people. It further offers opportunities for out of school youth and adults to develop their literacy and numeracy skills and attempts to expand distance education by including correspondence courses at Junior Certificate and Cambridge Overseas School Certificate levels. The LDTC acts as a service agency for other organizations involved in formal and nonformal education. Thus it provides support and materials, mainly in the form of visual aids, pamphlets, training for field workers, instructional booklets and radio programs for the in-service training of unqualified teachers at the National Teacher Training College who are automatically enrolled in the correspondence institute. Additionally, the LDTC provides educational materials and radio programs to the Agricultural Information Service and the Health Education Unit.

In 1980 several African countries comprising mainly the so called front-line states, i.e., those countries most affected by the political struggle in South Africa, and also most economically dependant on the southern African economic giantAngola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwejoined together to form the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC). In 1992 they were joined by Namibia. In 1994 South Africa became the eleventh member of the organization that was renamed the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The role of the organizations was to encourage economic independence for its members through the improvement of national and inter-country communications infrastructures, the growth of inter-country trade and cultural ties. By implementing joint training facilities and organizing joint training sessions in these countries, the Southern African Transport and Communications Commission (SATCC), one arm of the SADCC, promoted cooperation in human resource development. The SATCC also promotes cooperation among the telecommunications administrations of the region via the Pan African Telecommunications (Panaftel) microwave network and satellite links, international gateway exchanges, and earth stations. These projects undertaken by Panaftel are vital for the furthering of distance education in Lesotho. Possibilities for further development of telecommunication based distance education exist, but at present Lesotho does not have the necessary infrastructure to make this a viable proposition for such initiatives by organizations such as the Commonwealth of Learning that at present sponsors the LDTC.

During the 1980s when Lesotho hosted a number of refugees from the urban areas of the Republic of South Africa, the International Labor Organization, based in Geneva, Switzerland, together with the United Nations High Command of Refugees, implemented small projects designed to assist and train especially female refugees in developing small enterprises, in learning basic occupational skills, and so make them less dependant on the host country during their period of exile, which could range from anywhere up to twenty years or more.

Access to Global Information: The predicament for many developing countries is whether a relatively poor country with a high illiteracy rate, few skilled people, high unemployment, disease, malnutrition, and even starvation should exchange scarce foreign exchange and perhaps even increase its international debt burden to import computers. Purchasing computers also creates strong dependency on vendor countries: those countries that are merely consumers rather than producers of technology are exposed to the dangers of cultural invasion.

There are several reasons why even poor countries would want to put computers into classrooms and universities, the chief reasons being a wish to prepare students to be computer literate, to use computer-assisted learning, to have access to international information. However, added to the investment of installing computers in schools and universities is the added expense of importing software. Developing and marketing suitable educational software is so costly that few countries attempt it, yet educational and cultural reasons cause dissatisfaction with the software that is available.

Lesotho counts as one of the poorest countries in the world. Microcomputers are fairly readily obtainable at reasonable prices. But in 1987 there were few people trained to use them. A private school that had started to teach computer studies was forced to abandon the project because of staffing and resource shortages. In some schools hand-held battery-powered electronic aids were used to help students in the learning of English. However, this trend did not spread to other schools.

By the end of 1999 all African countries except Eritrea, Somalia, and Libya had local Internet access, with South Africa leading the number of Internet service providers and the number of computers connected to the Internet. In the other countries, including Lesotho, Internet access is limited to the capital cities. While Internet access presents especially African academic and research institutions with the possibility of admission to libraries and research institutions worldwide, there is growing concern that there is very little African content available on the Internet. The Global Information Infrastructure is not only dominated by the English Language, its content almost exclusively targets the needs of users in the United States and the United Kingdom. A 1999 survey of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has shown that Africa generates only 0.4 percent of global content. If the South African contribution is excluded, the figure is merely 0.02 percent. While a great deal of research has been done on the African continent, this research is unfortunately only available in the sponsoring institutions. And yet a specialized research institution like the Institute for Southern Africa Studies (ISAS) of the National University of Lesotho has the capacity to produce and publish the information and the research done by its faculty and students and thus add to the African content on the Internet. Similarly, while the foreign languages (English, Portuguese, French) spoken in Africa are well represented on the Internet, little has been undertaken to advance African indigenous languages through this medium. There is no reason why a country like Lesotho which has an indigenous national language, should not publish language materials produced in Sesotho.

Teaching Profession

Teacher training takes place at both the secondary and tertiary levels. Programs are offered at both teacher training colleges and universities. While the Primary School Leaving Certificate is generally regarded as too low a standard of admission, it may be accepted, especially because of the shortage of teachers. Most programs, however, require either a JC or the COSC with passes in English and Mathematics. Students who are admitted with a JC are expected to catch up with COSC holders. Most programs require two years, some require three.

Programs at the Lesotho National Teacher Training College: The Primary Teachers' Certificate requires a JC plus two years Secondary education. Advanced Primary Teachers' Certificate requires the COSC plus two years tertiary education. The Secondary Teachers' Certificate requires the COSC plus two years tertiary education. The Diploma in Education requires the COSC plus two years tertiary education. The Certificate in Primary Education requires the Primary Teachers' Certificate plus one credit in COSC plus two years experience plus two years part-time tertiary education. The Diploma in Primary Education requires the Primary Teachers' Certificate, plus the COSC, plus two years experience plus one year tertiary education. The Diploma in Secondary Education requires the Secondary Teachers' Certificate, plus two years experience plus one year tertiary education.

The Secondary Teacher Training Program consists of education courses and a basic core of English, social studies, and preparation of teacher aids. Students may specialize in either home economics or elementary technology. They may also choose English, in which they cover general composition and general literature, Sesotho, or religious knowledge as their major area. For the Diploma in Secondary Education, students may choose either a humanities or a science concentration. They attend the first year with all other first year students.

The teacher training colleges also offer professional certificates for in-service study. These certificates range from lower certificates for upgrading unqualified and under qualified teachers to higher certificates for furthering the training of qualified teachers. Each of the professional certificate programs atthe National Teacher Training College in Lesotho includes an internship year during which students teach in a school and are responsible to both the college and the regular school management. Students are paid during their internship year, and the certificates lead to promotions and higher pay.

The National University of Lesotho offers university level education programs that may lead to a Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.), a Concurrent Diploma in Education, a Post Graduate Diploma, or a Masters of Education (M.Ed.).


Despite international perceptions of Lesotho as an economically deprived country, it has a long history of intellectual, academic, and literary involvement. Some of southern Africa's foremost writers, Thomas Mofolo being only one of them, have deep cultural roots in Lesotho. Much of its present educational dilemmas are due to the legacy left by colonialism and the resultant loss of geographical, cultural, and political identity. In many ways King Moshoeshoe tried to protect his people precisely from such a predicament. By establishing himself in the almost impregnable mountain hideout of Thaba Bosiu, by whenever possible using diplomacy rather than confrontation to reach some kind of co-existence with the invading and war-like Zulu, Boer, and British, and finally by asking for the protection of Britain rather than be conquered and absorbed into another nation, Moshoeshoe attempted to create a national and cultural identity within geographically defined borders. Ironically, Independence in 1966, which should have seen the fulfillment of this ancient dream, in many ways saw its collapse. The international necessity to make English, the language of the "protector", the national language; the economic necessity for the men to become part of a migrant labor force and thus cause the breakup of the basic social and cultural unit, the family; the financial necessity to put the education of their own children in the hands of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and Foreign NGOs, and not in the hands of their own people, have all contributed to the crisis in education in Lesotho. An important step in the right direction was taken in 1978 when through the national Pitso, the traditional system of communication, the views of the nation concerning education were taken into account.

There is no reason why Lesotho with its proud history, should not once again be a major participant in the educational and intellectual global arena. Much depends on whether the international community with its fascination with the profit-making aspects of globalization and with "efficiency," often at the expense of other values, will allow this little mountain Kingdom the freedom to develop its educational system in such a way that its citizens rediscover their national and cultural character and mature to that stage where the contribution they make will be on their terms, rather than on those of the economically dominant modern superpowers.


Booth, Margaret Zoller. "Parental Availability and Academic Achievement among Swazi Rural Primary School Children." Comparative Education Review. Vol. 40, n.3, pp. 250-263. Aug 1996.

Chisenga, Justin. "Global Information Infrastructure and the Question of African Content." Paper presented at the 65th IFLA Council and General Conference, Bankok, Thailand, August 1999. Available from

Cranmer, David J., and Valerie A. Woolston. Southern Africa: A Study of the Educational Systems of Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa, Southwest Africa /Namibia and Swaziland with an Addendum on Zimbabwe-Rhodesia: A Guide to the Academic Placement of Students in Educational Institutions of the United States. Washington, D.C: American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, 1980.

Department of State. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. 1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. February 2000. Available from

Hawkridge, David. "Rationales and Futures for Computers in African Schools and Universities." CITE Report No. 100. Open Univ., Walton, Bletchley, Bucks (England). Inst. Of Educational Technology. January 1990.

Karin I. Paasche

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Lesotho." World Education Encyclopedia. . 22 Nov. 2017 <>.

"Lesotho." World Education Encyclopedia. . (November 22, 2017).

"Lesotho." World Education Encyclopedia. . Retrieved November 22, 2017 from



Kingdom of Lesotho

Major City:

Other Cities:
Butha-Buthe, Leribe, Mafeteng, Maputsoe, Mohale's Hoek, Quthing


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report 2001 for Lesotho. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


Lesotho has dramatic snow-clad mountain ranges, high waterfalls plunging into deep basalt gorges, neat villages of thatched houses linked by only a bridle path to the outside world, small market towns where blanketed horsemen outnumber cars, and a unique capital, Maseru, where people from five continents work together to solve the nation's problems.

These are but glimpses of a small and remarkable country whose survival as an enclave is testimony to an enduring national spirit; a country created by the wisdom and diplomacy of Moshoeshoe the Great; and a country which, in 1966, after 98 years under the British flag, again took its place among the family of nations.

In Lesotho today, all are equal under the law, and all those who come in this spirit are welcome. Lesotho prizes its friendship with foreign countries and gratefully acknowledges their interest in its national development.

Although Lesotho may seem small on the map of Africa, it is possible to travel for many days and not exhaust its scenic delights. Map makers have as yet recorded few of its 10,000 villages; few persons have climbed more than a score of its thousand mountain peaks; and archaeologists have as yet probed only a handful of its hundreds of rock shelters.



Maseru, the capital of the "mile high" kingdom of Lesotho, is a small, bustling city largely dependent on South Africa for its support. After its foundation as a police camp in 1869, Maseru grew slowly at first. Its population, still less than 1,000 in 1906, increased slowly to only 14,000 by 1966, and is now about 150,000. In 1966, the only paved road in the country was one small, tarred road through the center of town, together with a small spur road to the railway station. Now there are large four-lane divided boulevards in town, street lights in most areas, and paving on the roads to most of the larger towns up-country.


A substantial variety of food is available in the local market in Maseru. There is one large modern supermarket in Maseru, the OK/Shop Rite. Most shop for food in Ladybrand, which has a Spar and a ShopRite (not your U.S. Shop-Rite), or in Bloemfontein, which has many supermarkets, some of which sell fine gourmet fruits, vegetables, dairy goods and groceries at reasonable prices. Local butchers supply high quality meat cut to order and will deliver to a Maseru residence. Packaged meat is available in the supermarkets. Food quality is at least as high as in the U.S. at prices which are noticeably lower than in the U.S. High-quality South African wines are available in great variety at low prices. Several bakeries provide a good choice of bread, rolls and cakes. Several kinds of frozen fish are available. There is no need to bring food to Maseru, except perhaps for a few comfort items like American condiments, sweet breakfast cereals Crisco chocolate chips, and marinated artichoke hearts, (a particular favorite of the U.S Ambassador).


Although there is a good selection of clothing available in the shops in Ladybrand and Bloemfontein, the styles are not really to American taste. Clothing selection is more limited in Maseru. In better clothing stores prices are similar to those in the U.S. or a little lower. It is difficult to find women's shoes made to American standards. In South African women's shoe sizing, the narrowest shoes are in a B width.

Children's clothing comes in a wide variety of styles and colors. Children's shoes are quite inexpensive. Many Maseru residents shop at the mall stores in Bloemfontein. If a family member must have a certain type of jeans or other clothing item, bring extra ones from the U.S.

An alternative to local shopping for clothing is to order from catalogs or order on-line. Goods ordered from the U.S. take about 3 weeks to arrive.

Civil servants in Maseru generally wear suits and ties to work. Black-tie occasions seldom arise. Cocktail and dinner parties are most common, for which men and women wear business suits. Many social occasions call for "smart casual" attire.

It is essential to have heavy clothing for winter. In Maseru, winter temperatures are typically brisk and often go below freezing at night. Up-country, sudden snowstorms are common and travel is hazardous. In summer, temperatures occasionally reach the high eighties and lightweight clothing is most comfortable.

Basotho women generally dress quite conservatively, with skirts below the knees. Only modern young local women in Maseru will wear slacks, jeans, or short skirts. Although South African men and women often wear shorts out in public, it would be more culturally sensitive to dress more conservatively.

Supplies and Services

Basic toiletries, over-the counter drugs and common household items are available in Maseru and in South Africa. Many are familiar U.S. name brands manufactured in South Africa. Prices are generally lower than in the U.S. Certain American brands of cosmetics are available, but they are significantly more expensive than in the US. It is advisable to bring cosmetics with you. If you sew, fabric is available but notions and patterns are in limited variety. This would be another mail order item.

A wide variety of cigarette brands, including American brands manufactured in South Africa, can be purchased at reasonable prices. Excellent South African beer and wine is available in Maseru.

There are several hairdressing salons for men and women in Maseru. Most men and women prefer to go to Ladybrand or Bloemfontein for hairdressing and other personal services. Drycleaning is available in Maseru and Ladybrand but there is some risk to the clothes in sending them for drycleaning. Tailoring and dressmaking services of good quality are available. Shoe repair services are available.

Domestic Help

Domestic help is readily available-full or part time, live in or out. Skill levels and English proficiency vary, as does ability to cook. The going wage for a domestic is quite low. Gardeners are available to help one take advantage of the soil and the climate here. Large flower and vegetable gardens are common.

Religious Activities

According to the most recent survey (1996), 49% of the population is Roman Catholic; 39% belongs to the Lesotho Evangelical Church (the independent daughter church of the French Protestant Mission); 8% are Anglicans; 2% are other.


The school year is divided into three terms beginning in August and ending in late June. A number of pre-schools are available that enroll children from age two years. No nursery care for younger expatriate children is available publicly; usually a nanny is hired for the home. The Maseru Preparatory School is the largest English medium primary school in Maseru. It has an enrollment of over 300 students of 37 different nationalities. Generally, the Ginn (British) system of instruction and examination is used, with supplemental materials supplied by other governments. The school offers the equivalent of U.S. grades kindergarten through grade 5, with class sizes of 20-25 children. Afternoon school for grades 3, 4, and 5 consists of study, clubs, and sports activities. A uniform is required and is available locally.

The American International School of Lesotho opened in September 1991. An American system of instruction is used, and currently there is a staff of 5 teachers and several teacher assistants, with an enrollment of 63 students. Some grades are combined and the structure is not rigid between grade levels. The school currently offers kindergarten through grade 7, with class size limited to 15. No uniform is required.

Machabeng College (high school) offers the equivalent of American junior high and high school (grades 6-12) as well as an International Baccalaureate (IB) program. The British system of instruction and examination is followed and the standards of the school are high. A uniform is required and is available at the school.


Tennis, squash, soccer, cricket and golf are the most widely played sports in Maseru. Occasionally, golf, tennis and squash tournaments and cricket or soccer matches are held in season. There is a challenging 9-hole golf course (with 18 tee boxes) next door to the U.S. Embassy. Rental horses and riding lessons are available at stables near Lady-brand.

Memberships are available at local hotels: tennis, swimming and children's playgrounds are available, but recently the Maseru Sun Cabanas has restricted pool memberships to adults over 18. At the Lesotho Sun, only Interclub or Sun Friends members and their children may use the swimming pool. There is no public swimming pool in Maseru. The Maseru Club offers tennis and squash, and has an Italian restaurant. There are several public tennis courts in Maseru that are available on a pay-per-use basis or by joining the club.

A limited amount of sporting goods are available in Maseru; a much wider selection can be found in Bloemfontein. American sports equipment can be located with some effort, but it would be better to bring equipment from the U.S. Some possibilities for snow skiing exist in the mountains of Lesotho, but no formal facilities are developed, and snow is rarely adequate. Water sports are popular in South Africa. Dams for sailing are within an hour's drive of Maseru. The lake behind Katse Dam is quite large, but is not yet developed from a water sports standpoint.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Lesotho is famous for pony-trekking. There are a number of resorts at which ponies and guides can be hired; trips can range from 2 hours to 5 days. Pony treks provide fabulous views of the mountains as well as views of some of the prehistoric cave paintings.

Another popular Lesotho activity is fishing. Lesotho has trout in many of its mountain streams. Several fishing spots in the mountains offer permanent, though basic, accommodation and are accessible by car, light plane or horseback. Hiking and camping are available in some of the most spectacular African mountain scenery. One example is Semonkong, where a magnificent 600-feet waterfall cascades over the edge of a cliff. It is one of the longest free falls of water in the world. There is a hotel within walking distance of the falls.

The mountains of Lesotho provide ample opportunity for sightseeing and outdoor recreation. Bushman paintings and prehistoric dinosaur footprints can be found in many parts of Lesotho, some only a short drive from Maseru. With a four-wheel drive vehicle, one can drive out to Mokhotlong and on through the Sani Pass, which is very near to Thabana-Ntlenyana, the highest peak in Southern Africa.

Swaziland, with its rolling hills and green countryside, is a seven-hour drive from Maseru. Wildlife parks, curios and casinos are among the attractions that draw visitors there. The Ezulwini Valley has one of the best handicraft markets in southern Africa.

Botswana is an eight-hour drive from Maseru. The Okavango Delta is still the least-developed wildlife reserve in southern Africa. Camps can be reached by four-wheel drive, plane or native canoe. Tourist firms operate from Gaborone and Maim.

Zimbabwe offers many game reserves, some of which are quite inexpensive. Victoria Falls, Lake Karibu and the Great Zimbabwe ruins (an archaeological site in the southern part of the country) are popular attractions. One needs to get an update on the current security situation before proceeding to Zimbabwe.

South Africa offers a multitude of tourist possibilities from beaches to mountains to cities. Cape Town is fourteen hours south and west of Maseru; Johannesburg is five hours away to the north; and Durban is six hours southeast of Maseru. Bloemfontein (90 minutes away) provides good weekend outings to the zoo, museums, and the occasional play or ballet.

Kruger National Park in South Africa on the Mozambique border is still the most visited game park in all of Southern Africa. It offers 12 camps for visitors and the best chance to spot thousands of animals even on a weekend trip. Kruger is also the home of a multitude of species of birds. Bring your binoculars and bird book. The park is about 10 hours from Maseru.


All the hotels offer occasional entertainment sponsored by various organizations in Maseru. The Lesotho Sun Hotel has regular live music in its a la carte restaurant. The hotel also offers a variety of films, usually within one-to-two years after release in the U.S. The British Council and the Alliance Francaise offer videos and cultural presentations. Various social clubs, such as Rotary and Lions, have chapters with regular meetings and community projects. There are a number of daytime social groups and charity organizations to get involved with if one is not working outside the home. There is a chapter of the Hash House Harriers in Maseru. Members meet to run on Sunday mornings or Monday afternoons, depending on the time of year.

Organized entertainment for children is limited. Little League softball is sometimes available. Music, art and sports lessons are offered, depending on who in the community is available to teach.

Social Activities

Americans will have some social contact with Basotho, but the majority of socializing in Maseru will be with other expatriates. The United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, European Union, United Nations and the People's Republic of China have Missions in Lesotho. Generally, social life is what each individual makes it. You have to make your own fun.


BUTHA-BUTHE is 60 miles northeast of Maseru on the Roof of Africa road. It has a hotel, craft center, and modern mosque.

LERIBE is a village in northwestern Lesotho, about 45 miles from Maseru. The farm-based community grows corn, wheat, and sorghum, and sells livestock hides for export. A ruined fort, built by the Cape Colony in the late 1870s, gives mute testimony to the subjugation of the people of Lesotho.

MAFETENG is a commercial and communications center 40 miles south of Maseru. The town is linked to the capital by a tarred road and is considered a good base point for touring the area. The population of Mafeteng is over 15,000.

Located 52 miles north of Maseru, MAPUTSOE is an expanding industrial center. Many new factories are in the town, strategically situated one mile from South Africa's railhead at Ficksburg.

MOHALE'S HOEK is a small village located in southwestern Lesotho. The area is predominantly agricultural with livestock serving as the main source of income. Wool and mohair are processed here for export.

QUTHING (also called Moyeni) lies near the Senqu (Orange) River in the south. The Abathembu and Baphuthi people live in the city; they have unique language, dress, and customs. Nearby, an unusual cave dwelling from the 1860s and fossil footprints may be viewed. Quthing boasts a new hotel complex.


Lesotho (Leh-SOO-too) is a land-locked country in the east-central part of the Republic of South Africa. It is bounded on the north and west by the Free State of South Africa; on the south by the Eastern Cape Province; and on the east by KwaZulu Natal Province.

Slightly larger than Maryland and slightly smaller than Belgium, Lesotho covers an area of 11,116 square miles. It is roughly in the form of a circle, 125 miles across. The western one-quarter of Lesotho is lowlands where the altitude varies from 5,000 to 6,000 feet above sea level. This is the country's main agricultural zone and contains most of the population. The rest of the country is composed of highlands that rise to 11,400 feet in the Drakensburg Range, which forms the eastern boundary with KwaZulu Natal. Thabana-Ntlenyana, the highest peak in Southern Africa at 11,424 feet, is just inside Lesotho's eastern border near the Sani Pass.

Maseru (Muh-SEH-roo), the capital, has an estimated population of 150,000. It is located 5,000 feet above sea level on the Caledon River, which forms the western boundary between Lesotho and the Free State in South Africa. Surrounded by scenic bluffs and mesas, Maseru has a small central business district and several neighborhoods with good housing. Beyond that, the city sprawls for miles with collections of small tin-roofed houses and roadside businesses. The surrounding countryside is severely affected by soil erosion, and despite sufficient water, the lowlands have little natural vegetation for much of the year. The landscape, mountainous, bare, dotted with picturesque villages, is starkly beautiful.

The climate is temperate year round. Rainfall, occurring mostly from October to April, ranges from 24 inches a year over most of the lowlands to over 40 inches a year in the mountains. A windy season during August and September occasionally brings dust storms.

Average daytime temperatures are in the high 80°F in summer and can reach 100°F in Maseru. In winter, daytime temperatures average in the mid 60°F and at night sometimes drop to the teens in Maseru. Wide variations occur between daytime and nighttime temperatures. Temperatures in the mountains are even more extreme with snowfalls common in winter. The humidity year round is quite low.


The country of Lesotho is inhabited by the Basotho (Bah-SOO-too) people. The singular of Basotho is Mosotho (Muh-SOO-too). The language they speak is Sesotho (Seh-SOO-too).

The Basotho combine a respect for tradition, symbolized by the hereditary Head of State, with a keen interest in their modern institutions. Their history as a nation is a source of considerable pride. Since the days of their national founder, Moshoeshoe I (Muh-SCHWAY schway) who ruled from 1824 to 1870, the Basotho have maintained their territorial integrity, and since 1966, their national sovereignty.

The population in Lesotho is now slightly over 2.1 million. Another three million ethnic Basotho live in South Africa. English is Lesotho's second language and is widely spoken, especially in the lowlands. The average citizen has a relatively low standard of living: the average annual per capita income is about $430. There are small communities of North Americans, Europeans, South Asians and Chinese in the country.

Public Institutions

Lesotho, the former British Protectorate of Basutoland (1868-1966), became independent as a constitutional monarchy on October 4, 1966. Unfortunately, the democratic elections of 1965 were not repeated, and Liboa Jonathan dissolved the Parliament and seized power in 1970. He was overthrown by a military coup in 1986. A second ruling military council ceded power to an elected civilian government on April 2, 1993, marking the return of democratic rule to Lesotho. King Letsie III is the constitutional monarch of Lesotho, but the Prime Minister and his Cabinet hold executive power.

In September 1998, there was a civil disturbance in Maseru and other western towns. Substantial portions of the downtown Maseru business area were burned. Troops from (SADC) intervened and restored order. As this is written (early 2001), businesses are being rebuilt and the city center is coming back to life. In addition, the main thoroughfare between the South African border and the center of town is being upgraded to a four lane divided boulevard.

The hereditary chieftanship is an important traditional institution to which many Basotho look for leadership and guidance. The king is paramount chief. The principal chiefs of Lesotho act as the king's agents in some local and community government matters and oversee the allocation and leasing of land. All land is owned by the king and may only be leased.

The Christian churches (Lesotho Evangelical, Catholic, Anglican, African Methodist Episcopal and Assemblies of God) are significant institutions in Lesotho and play a prominent role in the national educational system. There is an international interdenominational church active in Maseru. The Islamic and Bahai faiths also play significant roles in the religious affairs of the country.

Various charitable and development assistance organizations are active and include Save the Children Fund, the Red Cross Society, CARE and Caritas. The UN Development Program provides about 200 technical assistance experts. The European Union, Ireland Aid, and the UK (DIFD) also have large development assistance programs.

Arts, Science, and Education

The town of Morija, located about 25 miles outside of Maseru, boasts an exceptional museum-the Morija Museum and Archives is a treasure house of Lesotho history. It has a wonderful collection of fossilized remains of prehistoric reptiles, including dinosaurs. Traditional shields and spears adorn the walls, and two examples of the Khau, the Basotho equivalent of the Victoria Cross, are on display. Jewelry, worn in the 19th century by wealthy people, particularly those of Nguni origin, is also on display. The museum abounds with traditional clothing and implements.

The Basotho have long valued education. The National University of Lesotho (NUL), formerly shared by Botswana and Swaziland, was nationalized in 1975. NUL provides for Lesotho's higher education needs in humanities, physical sciences, law, economics and social sciences. Programs are also developing in agriculture and technical education. NUL is located in Roma, 20 miles from Maseru.

Commerce and Industry

Because of its location, Lesotho is heavily dependent on the Republic of South Africa for trade and employment opportunities. A significant portion of Lesotho's income comes from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), of which Lesotho, Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland and South Africa are members. Most private commercial enterprises are small. Attractive wall hangings, rugs, pottery and other handicrafts are produced locally.

The mines of South Africa still provide employment to Basotho males, but not nearly as much as in the recent past. The garment and construction industries have experienced important growth in recent years, but the agricultural sector livestock and subsistence farming-remains the largest domestic source of employment. Lesotho will benefit from AGOA, the African Growth and Opportunity Act, since it will eliminate tariffs on goods already competitively produced in Lesotho for export to the U.S. The bottom line is that Lesotho has a serious unemployment/under-employment problem that is not susceptible to easy solutions.

Lesotho and South Africa are now engaged in a massive public works project to capture and pump Lesotho water to the Johannesburg area. Katse Dam was completed in 1998 along with a tunnel to transfer water north to Gauteng Province. A second dam, Mohale, is under construction now together with a tunnel to transfer water from behind this dam over to the Katse Reservoir. Scheduled to last through 2030, the Lesotho Highlands Development Project (LHDP) will absorb over $5 billion of capital investment. In 1998 the country began receiving royalties for water transferred through LHDP tunnels and pipelines to Gauteng.



Americans have no special problems licensing and registering their vehicles in Lesotho. Leaded and unleaded gasoline are available in Lesotho and South Africa. A wide range of family and four wheel-drive vehicles is available locally.

Although new vehicles are slightly more expensive than in the U.S., used vehicles are available at prices comparable to or better than those in the U.S. When imported vehicles are sold to individuals without duty-free privileges, a 50% duty is charged if the vehicle has been in the country for less than 2 years. Since left hand-drive cars are no longer allowed to be imported into South Africa, the prospective market for sale of a left-hand drive vehicle is limited to Lesotho. In all of southern Africa, traffic moves on the left side of the road. All things considered, a prospective resident of Lesotho would be better off with a right-hand drive car as it is easier to see past the car in front when overtaking. Nevertheless, left-hand-drive cars may be safely driven here.

Most German and Japanese and some American cars can be serviced in Maseru. However, standards of service vary from good to poor, depending on the particular vehicle and on the particular mechanic. Frequently, parts for American cars must be ordered from the U.S., and extended waits for repairs are commonplace. Some prefer to take their vehicles to South Africa for servicing (Ladybrand is 12 miles and Bloemfontein is 85 miles away). Dealer service for the most popular makes and models is available, but bear in mind that a car built for the U.S. market will be quite different from the same car built for the South African market. Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mazda, Isuzu, Mercedes Benz, BMW, VW and Opel are all popular in the South African market.

Third-party liability insurance is unnecessary in southern Africa because it is provided automatically through a tax on gasoline purchases. However, third party property insurance must be purchased locally. By American standards, it is inexpensive. Collision and comprehensive insurance should be purchased through one of the U.S. firms that specializes in overseas automobile insurance (e.g., Harry Jannette or Clements).

It is a good idea to bring an international drivers license with you (purchase at AAA in the U.S.) to obtain a Lesotho license. Drivers will otherwise have to submit their American license to be kept until they surrender their Lesotho license at departure.


About 1,000 miles of Lesotho's roads are paved, including the major north-south road and the road to Mokhotlong in the east. A few main rural highways compare to U.S. two-lane rural roads, but lane markings, signs, shoulders, and guardrails are not to U.S. standards. Unfenced livestock poses a particular danger. Other roads are rough, and mountain travel outside of the dry season requires a four wheel-drive vehicle. Traffic in Lesotho as well as in the rest of southern Africa keeps to the left. Public transportation consists of government-owned buses and private taxis (actually minivans). Intercity travel at night is not recommended.


There is only rail freight service into Lesotho from South Africa. Bloemfontein (85 miles from Maseru) is the nearest place to board a passenger train. Moshoeshoe I International Airport is 12 miles outside of Maseru. The only air service is provided by South African Airlink between Maseru and Johannesburg International Airport. SA Airlink flies Citation 41 turboprop planes into Maseru. These flights are often overbooked and connecting travelers are advised to reconfirm their onward flight to Maseru as soon as possible after arrival in Johannesburg. Travelers may also fly to Bloemfontein and arrange road transportation on to Maseru.


Telephone and Telegraph

Acceptable telephone and cellular service is available in the larger population centers, but much of the interior can only be reached by radio operated by the police or missionary organizations. Cellular coverage for many parts of the country is spotty. Good international telephone and fax service is available in all of the larger towns.

Radio and TV

In Maseru, 10 FM stations and 4 AM stations can be heard. The BBC transmits on FM 24 hours a day. Other stations have programming in English, Sesotho, and Afrikaans. Some of the South African stations have programming very similar to easy listening stations in the U.S. With the decline in the value of the rand/maloti relative to the dollar over the last 2 years, prices for electronic equipment and recorded music and video will seem quite low compared to U.S. prices. The videotapes that are available locally are formatted in the British PAL system. A multisystem TV, which can be purchased in South Africa more cheaply than in the U.S., would be quite useful in that it will receive local and cable TV as well as play local and U.S. videos. Since the nearest full-size cinema is located 85 miles from Maseru, a TV VCR player has the potential to provide considerable entertainment. Lesotho has no TV station of its own, but rebroadcasts news for 1 1/2 hours each evening through a South African pay-TV station. South African TV (SABC 1 and SABC 2) is multi-lingual and is received on British PAL system frequencies. An inexpensive outside TV antenna is required in Maseru. Programs in English and Afrikaans alternate throughout the day and are interspersed with programs in native languages. Shows are usually South African, British or American in origin. Also available is satellite TV service (DSTV) from South Africa. About 40 channels are available including CNN, BBC, Sky News, CNBC, ESPN, local sports and entertainment (National Geographic, Discovery, BBC Prime, movies, food and fashion). The DSTV costs $400 for a dish and setup, with subscription cost at approximately $50 per month.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

One government-sponsored and four independent English-language newspapers are published weekly in Maseru. South African dailies are available, but their coverage of international news is spotty. The South African Weekly Mail and Guardian has been internationally acclaimed for its excellent reporting.

Many popular South African, British and American magazines are available locally. Magazines published/printed in South Africa are quite inexpensive, while imported publications usually sell for more than the price printed on the cover. Local bookstores and variety shops have a good selection of magazines. Paperback and hard cover books are available at several bookstores in Bloemfontein; they are, in general, more expensive than in the U.S. is a good alternative.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

Physician care is available in Lady-brand, South Africa (15 minutes drive).

Specialist care and hospitalization require travel to Bloemfontein (90 minutes drive). Bloemfontein has several hospitals and the standard of medical services provided is very high. The Government-operated hospital in Maseru is not recommended.

Community Health

Most of the central part of Maseru is connected to a central sewage system. Garbage is collected once a week in most of the capital and is disposed of in landfills. Maseru's tap water is generally potable.

Lesotho's various public health problems are most serious in the rural areas. During the rainy season, heavy runoff will contaminate drinking water supplies and cause outbreaks of intestinal diseases. There is no malaria in Lesotho. Disease incidence in Maseru is low. The most serious public health concerns are HIV/AIDS, road accidents and tuberculosis, which is highly contagious at a certain stage.

Preventive Measures

There are no required immunizations for entry into Lesotho. However, the State Department recommends that visitors be immunized for Hepatitis A and B, typhoid fever, tetanus and diphtheria. Although yellow fever is not endemic in Lesotho, proof of vaccination for that illness may be required for those entering from countries in which yellow fever does exist (other parts of sub-Saharan Africa and certain Latin American countries).

Some poisonous snakes and scorpions are found in Lesotho, especially in the warmer months. Common-sense precautions should be taken. Children should be warned periodically about the possibility of encountering these critters in the garden.

It may take the new arrival a few weeks to adjust to Lesotho's altitude-just over 5,000 feet. Some people experience headaches, dizziness and a general lethargy, but these symptoms soon pass. Although houses in Maseru have no central heat, some residences have fireplaces, electric radiators and split A/Cheating units. The humidity is quite low, especially in the winter. Depending on your preference, electric blankets or down comforters will be good items to have during the winter.


There are daily flights to Maseru and Bloemfontein from Johannesburg International Airport. Travelers with an overnight layover in Johannesburg en route to Maseru should book a room well in advance at the Holiday Inn at the airport. There is regular minivan service between the airport and the hotel. There is also a transit hotel inside the terminal building. Service is very basic but economical and convenient if one is making a direct connection outside of South Africa. It is a Protea Hotel and can be booked through a travel agent.

A passport is required, but no visa is needed for visits of 30 days or less. For more information concerning entry requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of the Kingdom of Lesotho, 2511 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 797-5533. Overseas, inquiries may be made at the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Lesotho.

Residential permits for Lesotho can be obtained after your arrival. Most travel to and from Lesotho requires transit passage through South Africa. Tourist (blue) passport holders do not need a South African visa.

Americans living in or visiting Lesotho are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy and obtain updated information on travel and security within Lesotho. The U.S. Embassy is located at 254 Kingsway, Maseru West; the mailing address is P.O. Box 333, Maseru 100, Lesotho. The telephone number is 266-312-666.


Because of frequent delays in air-freight arrivals, pets should travel with you on the plane. Check the quarantine laws in countries in which you plan to stop. (Britain, for example, has very strict laws regarding animal quarantine.) It is best not to layover anywhere when traveling with pets. Animals arriving in Lesotho must be accompanied by a certificate of good health issued within the six months previous to arrival and a current rabies vacci-nation, given within 30 days prior to arrival. A Lesotho import permit can be obtained after arrival. An import permit for South Africa will be issued 6 to 8 weeks prior to travel by: Veterinary Services Private Bag X138 Pretoria 001 R.S.A.

Additionally, all pets entering South Africa must travel as manifested air cargo, not as unaccompanied air baggage. If your pet arrives without the proper documentation or as unaccompanied baggage, it will be denied entry. You may want to employ the services of a pet expediter: Animal Travel Agency (Pty) Ltd. PO. Box 1478, Greenpark Bldg., Corner 11th Ave & Wessel Rd. Rivonia, R.S.A. Tel: (011) 803-1883.

The agency can obtain the necessary airport permit for South Africa, can meet the pets at the airport, can handle the formalities, and can arrange for kennel facilities, if necessary.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures

The maloti (M), Lesotho's currency, is pegged one-to-one to the South African rand. The rand is accepted in Lesotho, while the maloti is not accepted in South Africa, except in a few border towns. The commercial banks in Maseru (Standard Bank, Nedbank, and Lesotho Bank) offer the same services available in the U.S, but charges fees for almost every transaction. Foreign exchange transactions are possible through the Standard Bank. Banks throughout South Africa have ATMs which will accept American ATM cards and provide rand. Security concerns must be taken into account when using ATM machines as there is the possibility of a thief grabbing the money as it comes out of the machine.

A General Sales Tax (GST) is presently in effect in Lesotho; there are plans to institute a Value Added Tax (VAT) in the near future.

Lesotho uses the Metric system of weights and measures i.e., kilometers, liters, kilograms, meters and degrees Celsius.


Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Mar.(2nd Mon) Commonwealth Day*

Mar. 12 Moshoeshoe's Day

Mar. 21 National Tree Planting Day

Mar/Apr. Good Friday*

Mar/Apr. Easter*

Mar/Apr. Easter Monday*

May 2 King's Birthday

May/June Ascension Day*

July 4 Family Day

Oct. 4 Independence Day

Oct. 7 National Sports Day

Dec. 25 Christmas Day

Dec. 26 Boxing Day



These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country.

Bardell, John E. and James H. Cobbe. Lesotho: Dilemmas of Dependence in Southern Africa. Westview Press: Boulder, Colorado.

Becker, Peter. Hill of Destiny: The Life and Times of Moshesh, Ruler of the Basotho. Penguin Books.

Grill, Steven. A Brief History of Lesotho. Available at local bookstores in Maseru.

Haliburton, Gordon. Historical Dictionary of Lesotho. Scarecrow Press, Inc: Metuchen, New Jersey, 1977.

Murray, Calvin. Families Divided: The Impact of Migrant Labor in Lesotho. Cambridge University Press.

Thompson, Leonard. Survival in Two Worlds: Moshoeshoe of Lesotho, 1786-1870. Clarendon Press: Oxford, ford, England, 1975.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Lesotho." Cities of the World. . 22 Nov. 2017 <>.

"Lesotho." Cities of the World. . (November 22, 2017).

"Lesotho." Cities of the World. . Retrieved November 22, 2017 from



Kingdom of Lesotho
Muso oa Lesotho



Formerly called Basutoland, Lesotho is a small, landlocked, and mountainous state in southern Africa. The total area of 30,355 square kilometers (11,718 square miles) is a geographic enclave completely surrounded by the Republic of South Africa. There are no large lakes or direct access to the sea. This is the only country in the world where all the terrain is 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) above sea level. The westward tilting highland plateau descends from steep basaltic ridges into deep gorges and treeless rolling lowlands. The confluence of the Orange and Makhaleng Rivers form the lowest point (1,400 meters/4,593 feet), while Thabana Nitlenyana is the highest peak (3,482 meters/11,424 feet). The 3 large rivers, the Orange, the Caledon, and the Tugela, all rise in the mountains. Most of the population lives in a fertile 30 to 65 kilometers (18 to 40 miles) strip of lowland adjacent to the Caledon River in northwest Lesotho, where the capital of Maseru (population 386,000) is located.

Positioned in the Southern Hemisphere, the kingdom enjoys a temperate climate with 300 days of annual sunshine and well marked seasons that vary significantly with elevation. The cool lowland winters last from May to July and become very cold in the mountainous center of the country where freezing temperatures occur most evenings. Summer extends from November to January, when the lowland daytime temperatures frequently exceed 37°C (100°F). About 85 percent of the rain falls from October to April, when snow blankets the highlands. Periodic droughts, lowland flooding, and deadly lightning strikes are the main climate hazards.


The 2000 population of 2.1 million was an increase of 6.5 percent since 1990. There are 33.4 live births per 1,000 population, countered by a death rate average of 12.7 per 1,000 population. The gap between these 2 rates explains why the United Nations is projecting an annual growth rate of 2.07 percent to the year 2015. The population is expected to reach 2.4 million by the year 2025. In 2000, the life expectancy at birth was 44.6 years for the total population and slightly higher for women. This dropped from 52.4 years in 1995 and reflects the devastating effects of the HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis epidemics. The total fertility rate of 4.15 children per woman is among the world's highest and is nearly double that of fully industrialized countries. Out-migration in search of employment and the HIV/AIDS epidemic will likely curb population growth during the next 50 years. This "demographic fatigue" (a declining growth rate for negative reasons) is common in developing African countries.

The population is overwhelmingly "Basotho" (99.7 percent). Europeans, Asians, and other Africans comprise the remaining small minority (0.3 percent). The dependency ratio the number of people under 15 and over 65 years of age, compared with those who fall between is a very high, 72.5 percent. Approximately 80 percent are Christians, while 20 percent follow indigenous faiths. A total of 81 percent of the males and 62.5 percent of females are literate. Sesotho (southern Sotho), English (official language), Zulu, Xhosa, and Afrikaans are spoken throughout the kingdom.

The overall population density is 70.2 persons square kilometer (181 per square mile). However, since 85 percent are subsistence farmers , the rural population density of 461 persons per square kilometer (176 per square mile) of arable land clearly reveals a critical land shortage. This expanding population is pushing settlements, grazing, and cultivation into the marginal higher elevations and more arid eastern parts of the kingdom. The resulting overgrazing and soil erosion accompanying this land use is perhaps the most serious problem facing Lesotho.


Subsistence agriculture, livestock, manufacturing, and the paycheck remittances of "migratory" laborers employed in South Africa dominate the economy of Lesotho. Fresh water is the only important natural resource and is being exploited under the multi-year, 30 billion dollar, Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP). This massive scheme provides employment, domestic energy needs, and revenue from selling both water and hydropower to South Africa. The country also depends on foreign development assistance to meet much of its current food and infrastructure needs.

Since the 1950s, fixed-length migratory contracts to work gold and diamond mines in South Africa have been the most important source of income for Lesotho. Under present employment terms, a percentage of the salary is remitted directly to the National Bank in Lesotho. These earnings support the farms and families back home. In the 1990s, 70 percent of households had at least 1 migrant worker, and 35 percent of households used migratory earnings as their primary income. However, the Economist Intelligence Unit reports that from 1995 to 1999, the number of migrant mine workers hired in South Africa declined from 104,000 to an estimated 65,000, adding to a growing unemployment problem.

Subsistence agriculture accounts for 75 percent of domestic employment and production and about 14 percent of the GDP. However, land shortages, international aid, and government initiatives to increase credit and implement seed-fertilizer machinery are not keeping pace with population growth and decreasing migratory work in South Africa. Since 1987, population increase has doubled the growth of agricultural productivity.

A small but growing manufacturing sector produces woolen items and machine parts, and an expanding service industry accounts for the remaining 25 percent of domestic production.

Tourism in this "Rooftop of Africa" attracts South Africans and other foreigners to hike, pony-trek, and bird watch. The hospitable Basotho villages afford excellent opportunities to observe subsistence agriculture and transhumance (the seasonal migration of livestock and the people who herd them from lowlands to mountainous regions). This sector is expanding rapidly.

Foreign assistance to Lesotho in support of the struggle against apartheid (the legal separation of races) in South Africa increased during the 1970s. This aid quickened the pace of modernization and urban development, and there were significant improvements in infrastructure, education, and communications. Since 1995, the real GDP growth rate averaged an impressive 7 to 10 percent. However, population growth, political conflicts, and the shrinking demand for mine workers in South Africa now jeopardize these gains.

From 1988 to 1998, the annual GNP growth averaged 3.7 percent, and the per capita GNP increased US$47, from US$649 to US$696 (in constant 1995 U.S. dollars). Civil unrest following an unsuccessful coup in 1998 eroded Lesotho's economy and destroyed nearly 80 percent of the commercial infrastructure. The CIA World Factbook estimated the rate of GDP growth to be 2.5 percent in 2000 and GDP per capita was estimated at US$2,400.


Khoisan-speaking hunter-gatherers first settled this region 10,000 years ago. They were overwhelmed in the 16th century by sedentary farmers who evolved into the Sotho nation of today. By the mid-19th century internecine (struggle within a nation) conflict, competition from Boer trekkers for the Cape Colony, and British intervention finally resulted in Basutolanda British Protectorate that lasted from 1871 until independence in 1966.

Today, Lesotho is a multi-party constitutional monarchy. There is a bicameral National Assembly composed of a lower house of directly elected representatives, and an Upper House (Senate) comprised of 22 non-elected principal chiefs and 11 other members appointed by the king. The legal system is modeled after English common law and Roman-Dutch law. The High Court and Court of Appeal exert judicial review of legislation.

During the 1970s, discord over apartheid in South Africa destabilized all of southern Africa. The conservative South African regime accused Lesotho of accepting refugees and harboring African National Congress operatives. South African troops attacked Maseru in 1982. About 4 years later their border blockades severed the kingdom from the outside world. A pro-South African military faction within Lesotho reacted by removing Chief Jonathan and establishing military rule. The king became a figurative head of state.

In 1993, Lesotho returned to democracy after 23 years of authoritarian rule. The current head of state is King Letsie III, and the head of government is Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisil. The Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), Basotho Congress Party (BCP), Basotho National Party (BNP), and Maramatlou Freedom Party (MFP) are the largest of 12 to 15 political parties. The political system remains very fragile and prone to disruption. The last general election on May 1998, was disputed and triggered civil tension that is still present. An Interim Political Authority will oversee the next elections.

The government consumes 21.5 percent of the GDP. The top income tax rate is 35 percent, and the average taxpayer pays a 25 percent marginal tax rate. The top corporate tax rate is 35 percent.


Printed and electronic media are available from 3 sources. South African newspapers, magazines, radio and television are the most numerous and widespread. Of these independent publications, the Mopheme (Survivor) and The Mirror are the most popular. Catholic and Evangelical church newspapers that appear on a weekly and bi-weekly schedule are a second source. Finally, the Lesotho News Agency (LENA) provides government- sanctioned perspectives on all issues. One organ of this, the Lesotho National Broadcasting Service, offers programs in English and Sesotho. There are 2 FM radio stations and 1 AM radio station. LENA plans to establish an Internet news service in the next few years. The government tolerates criticism from independent media.

There is no national airline, but South African Airways offers direct flights from Johannesburg to Maseru. The 31 other airstrips scattered throughout the country

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Lesotho 8 49 25 N/A 5 N/A N/A 0.08 1
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
South Africa 32 317 125 N/A 56 3.5 47.4 33.36 1,820
Dem. Rep. of Congo 3 375 135 N/A 0 N/A N/A 0.00 1
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

service private aircraft and occasional charter flights. The South African railroad stops near Maseru and connects to points within Southern Africa.

In 2000, 18.3 percent (800 kilometers/480 miles) of the roads were paved. The remaining 1,600 kilometers (960 miles) vary between high quality gravel corridors and rough dirt tracks. Road upgrades since 1970 were designed to unite the country, improve commerce, and reduce the dependence on peripheral South African roads.


Adequate telephone service exists in and around Maseru and in settlements adjacent to the major roads. Many remote areas still await electrification. In 2000 there were approximately 30,000 telephones in use (about 1.4 per 100 people), and connections increase 13 percent each year. In 1995, a consortium (a cooperative group) of public and private telecommunications corporations combined to offer cellular service in Lesotho for the first time. Service will increase over the next decade so that remote areas will likely leap into the cellular age. There is 1 satellite Earth station for international calls. Personal computers are almost unknown, and the 1 Internet Service Provider appeared only recently.


Lesotho's principle economic sectors are agriculture (18 percent), mining and manufacturing (38 percent), and retail /tourism/services (44 percent) in 1999, according to the CIA World Factbook. Although politically autonomous, Lesotho's economy is almost totally dependent on trade and cooperative development with the Republic of South Africa. Several reasons explain this dependence. First, South Africa completely surrounds mountainous Lesotho in the same manner that water surrounds an island. Thus, all commerce and travelers to and from Lesotho must pass through their wealthier neighbor which is also their dominant trading partner. Second, 75 percent of Lesotho families rely on wages earned in South African mines for at least some of their income. Any fluctuation in mine productivity affects Lesotho. Finally, political changes in South Africa greatly alter foreign aid and investment in Lesotho. In the past, the international donor community (wealthy industrialized nations) viewed this small mountain kingdom as an island of racial freedom surrounded by a South Africa locked in apartheid. When Nelson Mandela spearheaded majority rule, South Africa became a more important recipient of international development dollars.


Agriculture employs a modest 57 percent of the labor force , mostly on subsistence farms. This figure is lower than similar developing countries as the mountain environment offers less terrain for growing crops and many adult males work in South African mines. While the CIA World Factbook estimates that 35 percent of the male wage earners do work in South African mines, it also estimates that 86 percent of the resident population is involved in subsistence agriculture, a much higher number.

Most crops and livestock are produced in small villages distant from the major roads. The products are consumed locally with the surplus shipped for sale and profit in outside markets. Maize, wheat, and sorghum predominate. As a percentage of the GDP, farming has declined from 50 percent in the 1970s, to just 18 percent in 2000. During the 1990s, about 13 percent of the country was cultivated. This amount is shrinking as soil erosion, droughts, and the destruction of farm equipment during civil unrest in 1998 take a cumulative toll. To stimulate exports to South Africa, the government is liberalizing price controls , improving roads, and encouraging monocropping of cut flowers, asparagus, and fruits.

Most farmers also raise livestock to supplement crops and maintain "food security" during drought years when crop yields are low. Animal husbandry is important everywhere and is often the only revenue source in the higher elevations. Sheep and goats that produce meat, milk, and very high quality wool and mohair are the most important animals. Cattle are also increasing because they fetch more lucrative contracts.

Lesotho's forest cover is very fragmented as neither the arid lowlands nor the colder highlands favor tree growth. The best stands are in riparian sites (located on the bank of a natural watercourse) and in sheltered mountain hillsides. Aggressive wood collection for cooking, warmth, and home construction prevents trees from attaining commercial stature. The Ministry of Agriculture manages one 874-hectare (2,518-acre) forest reserve of mostly rapidly growing eucalyptus. Fishing resources are also minimal in this landlocked country with no significant lakes. There is sport fishing for river trout, and village cooperatives are experimenting with fishponds (mostly carp) to boost protein in the local diet.



Local mining and migratory labor to South African mines are essential to Lesotho's economic fortune. Diamond is the principal commercial mineral. Clay for manufacture into bricks and ceramic ware is also important. Deposits of coal, quartz, agate, galena, and uranium have been identified but are not yet commercially viable. Domestic mining and migratory mine wages account for 24 percent of total income in Lesotho. This amount exceeds comparable developing countries and stems from the unusual migratory labor pattern.

Traditional diamond mining from small and independent diggings averaged only 9,000 carats per year until 1977, when South African mining giant De Beers opened the Letseng-la-Terae open-cast mine. Production surged to 105,200 carats in 1980, so that high quality gemstones accounted for 55 percent of Lesotho's exports. The oscillating global diamond market produced many periods of boom and bust, and in 1983 De Beers ceased the Letseng-la-Terae operation. It was recently reopened under a new private/government partnership, and the rising demand for raw diamonds may also stimulate foreign investment in additional mines within Lesotho.

The "fixed contract" (or circular) migration of mostly 20-to 40-year-old male workers from Lesotho to South African mines is integral to the economy. It is also subject to market forces, and since the late 1990s, falling output from South African mines has reduced the need for foreign labor. In 2001 this demand dropped to its lowest level since the early 1970s. Still, 25 percent of Lesotho's total labor force engages in what are typically fixed-term contracts of 12 months. Remittances from mine employment accounted for 45 percent of Lesotho's GNP from 1983-91 (30 percent of each paycheck is now "deferred" until the worker returns home). If this downward spiral continues, Lesotho will face severe unemployment and a staggering loss of outside earnings that have been the primary source of family support and economic development since independence.


Manufacturing as a percentage of the GDP rose from 8 percent in 1980 to 18 percent in 2000. This rapidly expanding sector employs 24,000 people. Basotho workers produce clothing, footwear, leather goods, handicrafts, furniture, pottery and tapestries from mostly imported raw materials. Finished goods are exported primarily to South Africa and the United States. This sector will continue to improve if the political situation remains stable.

Increasing both output and employment is an important government objective, although achieving these goals has proved contentious. Prior to 1965 the industrial base was small because geographic isolation, poor infrastructure, and no access to major commerce routes restricted growth. In 1967 the government founded the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) to attract foreign investment. The effort succeeded but hurt "indigenous" enterprise that lacked the entrepreneurial capacity and financial resources to compete with government/foreign partnerships. Basotho workers resented some foreign operations, especially those under Chinese ownership, for their demeaning labor practices (low compensation, unpaid overtime, gender bias), and apparent bribing of local officials to skirt labor laws. From 1992 to 1998, repeated strikes, walkouts, and political rallies diminished productivity. Teachers, manufacturing workers, and even those staffing the Highlands Water Project participated. Moreover, the protests coincided with the transition to majority rule and erasure of economic sanctions against South Africa, which opened their larger labor force and excellent infrastructure to the same outside investors.


Begun in 1986, the Lesotho Highlands Water Development Project (LHWDP) has been the most important economic and resource development project in Lesotho. Water exports started in 1998 and are now a reliable source of foreign income. Much of the water is bound for South Africa. Leadership from the World Bank and a consortium of public and private sources financed the project that provides Lesotho with 4,000 jobs, water, and energy. More hydropower stations are under construction so that the kingdom will soon export power to South Africa. The government is also investigating the possibilities of solar and LHWDP power for its rural areas.



When compared to South Africa, traveling in Lesotho is very inexpensive. Commercial accommodation and food are available in the larger towns. Elsewhere, Basotho farmers and herders accept tourists into their homes for a small fee or bartered item. Tourists choose to hike, pony trek, bird watch (over 300 species), and observe a rural subsistence way of life. A pony trekking cooperative offers highland routes that overnight in villages. The cool upland air and a fine reputation for local hospitality also explain why tourism is flourishing. Lesotho offers free entry visas and compared with much of Africa, risk of crime and disease is low.


Despite pervasive state involvement in the financial sector, state control is shrinking, as are revenues from state-owned enterprises and government property ownership. The government plans to privatize the state-owned Lesotho Bank that formulates and implements monetary policy and advises on fiscal policy . Foreign banks operate in the kingdom. Procuring credit for investment and land purchases remains beyond financial reach for most Basotho.


Maseru offers the only significant hotel, dining, and retail enterprise with department stores and specialty shops marketing Basotho handicrafts. Teyateyaneng is the center of traditional arts and crafts industries such as tapestries, tribal wool products, and handcrafts.


Lesotho joined the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in 1994. The organization promotes economic growth and cooperation among its 14 member states. The kingdom also participates with South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and Swaziland, in the South African Customs Union (SACU) to encourage free trade and economic exchange. Unfortunately, most SACU members are similarly underdeveloped. In 2000 the import of goods and services equaled approximately US$780 million. The net foreign direct investment was US$196 million.

The main exports are textiles (clothing and footwear), raw wool and mohair, agricultural produce (corn, wheat, pulses, sorghum, barley), livestock (cattle, sheep, and goats, and building materials (especially ceramics). The

Exchange rates: Lesotho
maloti per US$1
Jan 2001 7.78307
2000 6.93983
1999 6.10948
1998 5.52828
1997 4.60796
1996 4.29935
Note: The Lesotho loti is at par with the South African rand which is also legal tender; maloti is the plural form of loti.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

SACU accounts for 65 percent of export trade, with North America (34 percent), and the European Union (.07 percent) following. The primary imports include cereals, food ingredients, machinery, medical supplies, and oil and petroleum products. As with exports, the major import trading partners are the SACU (90 percent), Asia (7.4 percent), and the European Union (1.5 percent). There are no export controls except for diamonds, which require a license.


The loti is pegged with the South African rand; both currencies are legal tender in Lesotho. Those wanting to exchange maloti for convertible currency (dollars, marks, francs, etc.) usually exchange inside Lesotho, or change for South African rand, which is then convertible worldwide. Lesotho's currency is convertible internationally but is very uncommon outside of Southern Africa. In January 2000, US$1=6.125 maloti, a rate that has remained stable in the last 3 years. There is no domestic exchange rate policy, and there are no controls on regional exchange flows. The average inflation rate is approximately 8.5 percent.


Despite significant economic progress, Lesotho remains one of world's poorest countries. The average citizen

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Lesotho 220 311 295 370 486
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
South Africa 4,574 4,620 4,229 4,113 3,918
Swaziland 1,073 1,046 1,035 1,446 1,409
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.
Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Lesotho
Lowest 10% 0.9
Lowest 20% 2.8
Second 20% 6.5
Third 20% 11.2
Fourth 20% 19.4
Highest 20% 60.1
Highest 10% 43.4
Survey year: 1986-87
Note: This information refers to expenditure shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita expenditure.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

survives on less than 2 dollars per day. Half the population exists below the United Nations poverty line. Only 14 percent of the urban residents have good access to water. The most telling statistic is that 16.5 percent of children under 5 years of age suffer from malnutrition, a figure that swells during droughts.

In comparison to the majority of African nations the overall health of the population is good. The mountainous climate and southern latitude preclude tropical diseases that devastate developing regions elsewhere. Public health expenditures amount to only 3.7 percent of the GDP in 1990-98, yet 80 percent of the population has access to health services even though many medicines are unavailable. Those with money can use South Africa's excellent health system. There are 50 doctors and 33 nurses per 10,000 people. Only 23 percent use birth control.

The AIDS epidemic that is pervasive throughout Africa is evident in Lesotho. In 2001, 25 percent of those between the ages of 15 and 49 were infected with HIV/AIDS, and the rate grows each year. Tuberculosis also strains the health-care system to capacity. The government is sponsoring aggressive prevention, control, and screening programs for both diseases. In 2000, the World Bank issued a US$6.5 million credit to improve access to quality preventive, curative, and rehabilitative health care services.


The World Bank estimates that approximately 35 percent of the labor force is unemployed or underemployed . Another 50 percent are fully or partially employed in South Africa. About 86 percent of the population is rural subsistence farmers and herders. As is the case throughout sub-Saharan Africa, this cohort lives in "roundavels" (circular mud and thatch huts) with outdoor plumbing, oil lamps, and wood heat. Many villages are not connected to roadways. Fewer than 10 percent of the population works in the service and retail industry where wages are low and mistreatment by foreign-owned manufacturing plants resulted in mass civil unrest during the mid-1990s. There are no labor unions.


1600s. Sotho people arrive in present-day Lesotho, intermarry with the Khoisans, and establish trade links in Southern Africa.

1800. White traders introduce cattle. Boer pioneers usurp Sotho.

1820. Basotho emerge as Moshoeshoe the Great unites Sotho.

1860s. Boer wars and British intervention cost Basotho much of the western lowlands.

1880. The British gain control and prevent Lesotho's inclusion into the newly formed Union of South Africa, which spares Lesotho from apartheid.

1966. Basotholand becomes independent "Lesotho."

1970. The first prime minister, Chief Jonathan, is defeated at the 1970 poll; he suspends the constitution, expels the king, and bans the opposition.

1983. South Africa closes Lesotho's borders after Jonathan criticizes South African apartheid, strangling the country economically.

1984. Lesotho Highlands Water Development Project (LHWDP) initiated.

1986-97. A period of political unrest, coups, and skirmishes between rebel troops and government loyalists. Moshoeshoe II eventually gains power then dies in a car accident.

1994. Lesotho joins the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

1998. Elections are held under alleged cheating. Fearing violence the government calls on SADC treaty partners (Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe) to help restore order. South African troops enter the kingdom and heavy fighting engulfs Maseru. Eighty percent of the shops and other businesses are severely damaged.

2000. Government promises to call new elections and privatize more enterprise.


As with many developing nations, Lesotho must reconcile population growth with limited agricultural, infrastructure, and monetary resources. An isolated geographic location lacking access to the sea, overgrazing, and soil erosion are other severe problems. Failure to reverse these trends will impose severe economic hardship.

The AIDS epidemic, political unrest, and declining migrant remittances from South Africa also cloud the future. Ironically, South Africa's adroit transition to majority rule made that country more attractive to foreign investment and ended Lesotho's role as an island of racial freedom. As a result, foreign assistance was reduced and, in many cases, redirected to healing wounds in South Africa.

There are 3 phenomena that will largely determine Lesotho's future. First, the Highlands Water Project must continue expanding to generate more profit, domestic power and reliable employment. Second, sustaining political stability to attract additional foreign enterprise is critical to grow employment and domestic capital. Finally, achieving zero population growth through family planning (instead of HIV/AIDS and outmigration) will reduce pressure on agricultural and grazing lands. Accomplishing these objectives will situate this tiny nation in an excellent position to prosper when Africa begins to fully industrialize later this century.


Lesotho has no territories or colonies.


Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Lesotho. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

Lundahl, Mats, and Lennart Petersson. The Dependent Economy: Lesotho and the Southern African Customs Union. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1991.

Mochebelele, Motsamai T., and Alex Winter-Nelson. "MigrantLabor and Farm Technical Efficiency in Lesotho." World Development. Vol. 28, No. 1, 2000.

Murray, C. Families Divided: The Impact of Migrant Labour in Lesotho. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2001. <>. Accessed October 2001.

U.S. Department of State. Background Notes: Lesotho, August 1999. < 9908_bgn.html>. Accessed October 2001.

World Bank Group. "Countries: Lesotho." World Bank. <>. Accessed May 2001.

Stephen F. Cunha




Loti (L) (the plural form is maloti). One loti equals 100 lisente. Notes include denominations 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200 maloti. Coins include denominations of 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 200, and 500 lisente. The South African Rand is also accepted as legal currency on par with the loti.


Textiles (clothing and footwear), raw wool and mohair, agricultural produces (corn, wheat, pulses, sorghum, barley), livestock (cattle, sheep, and goats).


Food, building materials, vehicles, machinery, medicines, fuels.


US$5.1 billion (purchasing power parity, 2000 est.).


Exports: US$260 million (2000). Imports: US$780 million (2000). [The CIA World Factbook 2001 estimated exports at US$175 million f.o.b. and imports at US$700 million f.o.b. for 2000.]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Lesotho." Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies. . 22 Nov. 2017 <>.

"Lesotho." Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies. . (November 22, 2017).

"Lesotho." Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies. . Retrieved November 22, 2017 from



Basic Data

Official Country Name: Kingdom of Lesotho
Region (Map name): Africa
Population: 2,143,141
Language(s): Sesotho, English, Zulu, Xhosa
Literacy rate: 71.3%

Background & General Characteristics

Lesotho is landlocked and completely encircled by South Africa, with approximately 2.14 million people of which 99.7 percent speak Sesotho, with English used as the business language. The kingdom is a fragile democracya hereditary constitutional monarchy having a king as head of state without executive or legislative powers. Executive power is vested in the cabinet headed by a prime minister. Predominantly mountainous with a literacy rate of 83 percent, the kingdom's population is concentrated wherever arable land is found, primarily in the lower veld, along rivers and the capital of Maseru.

The press's growth and size are inhibited by Lesotho's weakened infrastructure, dependence on South Africa (35 percent of male wage-earners work as miners), and a mostly rural population (agriculture caters for 57 percent of the domestic labor force, with 86 percent of the population as subsistence farmers) with a low per-capita incomefactors relegating the purchase of newspapers, radios, television and the Internet as unaffordable luxuries. The HIV/AIDS prevalence of 23 percent threatens life expectancy, population size and socioeconomic productivity, including media patronage.

Since attaining its independence from Britain in 1966, Lesotho has undergone more than one coup, and has been engulfed in several political mayhems resulting in killings, looting and property destruction involving the press, which is caught in a quagmire adversely affecting its quality and existence.

Lesotho's economic and press sustainability is dominated by its geography and dependence on South Africa, the main buyer of water, Lesotho's primary resource. The economy is based on a declining Gross Domestic Product that in 1990 was 67 percent; in 1997, 33 percent; and in 2000, 11.5 percent, as well as from mineworkers employed in South Africa, erratic subsistence agriculture (wheat, corn and sorghum) and livestock production. Growing privatization emanating from the IMF-driven restructuring has led to the need for a poverty reduction and growth package to deal with escalating unemployment precipitated by subsequent retrenchments intended to reduce the size of the government, the largest single employer. There is a small manufacturing industry that depends on farm products supporting canning, milling, leather and jute initiatives.

Civil disorder in 1998 destroyed 80 percent of the commercial infrastructure in major cities, many of them lacking in insurance coverage. Political turmoil has adversely affected the media, especially the independent press, which lost buildings, equipment, the ability to cover events, personnel through retrenchment, sales and advertising. This was compounded by government directives discouraging advertising in papers considered critical of the ruling party. The resulting shoestring budget impedes the press' long-term development. Even with reconstruction efforts underway, progress in advertising and circulation are limited by the drop in readership due to lost jobs and an increase in the cost of printing and premiums. Economic development is impeded by a lack of natural resources, serious land shortages, a fragile ecology, and vulnerability to cyclic adverse climatic conditions, leaving the country a net importer of foodstuffs.

Although there are various small publications, periodicals and newsletters, most of Lesotho's media are sate-owned. The Lesotho News Agency (LENA), the only news agency, controls a widely disseminated newspaper. The Inter Press Service (IPS) of Italy operates under the auspices of LENA, a foreign bureau and a national radio broadcasting station. Prohibitive printing costs, poor technology and unavailability of newsprint make it difficult for Lesotho's small publications. Generally, low investment in this sector has adversely impacted the growth of the printing and publishing industry. Most of the country's printing jobs, including major works from the government, are being done outside the country. Government operated weekly papers are Lenstoe la Basotho, Lesotho Today, Lesotho Weekly, Makatolle, The Mirror, MoAfrica, Public Eye, Mopheme (The Survivor), The Sun, The Southern Star and Shoeshoe (a quarterly). The Leselinyana la Lesotho (Light of Lesotho) is published fortnightly, and Moeletsi oa Basotho, a weekly, are published by Lesotho Evangelical and Roman Catholic churches, respectively.

The Lesotho National Broadcasting Service is government-owned and broadcasts in Sesotho and English. Its radio and television transmissions began in 1964 and 1988, respectively.

The are six publishers: Longman Lesotho (Pty) Ltd; Macmillan Boleswa Publishers of Lesotho (Pty) Ltd; Mazenod Institute; Morija sesuto Book Depot; St Michael's Mission and Government Printer.

Press Law

The government, which controls mass media, has paid lip service to the adoption of a national media policy for many years. Despite its suspension from 1970-1986 and being rewritten in 1990, there has been very little change in the key elements of the constitution. While freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association are proclaimed, Lesotho's successions of governments have failed to articulate and adopt a national media policy, with one proposal shelved by the Ministry of Communication for years. Changes of governments also meant that new governments ignore or reverse promises made by their predecessors.

Government's control of media's purpose is not only to ensure timely dissemination of government policy, but also censorship. Government and independent journalists have been attacked for reporting certain matters or for being in the wrong place. Government and security forces have successively suppressed free press, and shot, maimed, defamed and fired journalists for reporting anything other than official statements from the government. The media has not been cowed into silence and continues to publish amidst many obstacles and is enjoying some degree of press freedom. But overall, there is a great deal of self-censorship and restraint by government-owned media.

State-Press Relations

State-press relations are defined by draconian internal security legislation giving considerable power to the military and police, and restricting the right of assembly including certain forms of industrial activity. Independent press and its staff suffered the worst atrocities in September 1998 due to looting and burning of buildings compounded by security forces' arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detentions and ill-treatment of detainees. The persisting political climate has proven harsh, where journalists are often faced with intimidation from the government, and attacks and accusations for supporting the government's opposing political parties.

Attitude Toward Foreign Media

The attitude toward foreign media is a mixed bag with media associations having international links operating in Lesotho. They are: The National Union of Journalists and the Media Institute of South Africa (MISA, the local chapter being called Media Institute of Lesotho-MILES), News Share Foundation (a journalist cooperative), the Commonwealth Journalists Association, and the Adopt-A-Media Network.

Electronic News Media

Regarding electronic News Media, Lesotho lacks resources to develop a film industry, but the Lesotho Council of Churches owns a mobile video outfit that produces videos for the international and local market. MILES also is funding the development of the Lesotho video industry, and it operates a video production unit for assisting members with technical support and training skills. Lesotho is rapidly becoming computerized with the government controlling most facets of information technology.

In 2000, government-run Lesotho Telecommunications Authority (LTC) was providing telephones and fax service in a joint venture with South Africa's Vodacom. The project will include a cellular telephone service, with the government relinquishing ownership in June 2001. The Internet has made slow inroads reflecting low incomes and a small potential market. Before localizing the service, Lesotho's Office Equipment's Internet connectivity was through service providers in South Africa. The University of Lesotho's Institute of Extra-Mural Studies owns its own Internet service and runs an Internet café for students and the public. South Africa's electronic and print media of varying reliability and quality is widely available in Lesotho. Independent newspapers, including the Mirror, MoAfrica, and Mopheme (The Survivor), tend to be critical of the government and can be found on the Internet.

Education & TRAINING

Christian missions under the Ministry of Education's direction provides a free, compulsory, seven-year elementary education. Provisions for secondary, technical, vocational and post secondary education have increased. Lesotho's background in media training is poor with the National University of Lesotho offering a diploma certificate in mass communications with most of the training done in-house or as short courses organized by groups such as MILES and CM Media.


Considering a history of government suppression, shootings and maiming of journalists, the media has not been silenced and continues to publish and enjoy some degree of freedom. However, there exists a persistent threat of an armed conflict with a Lesotho Defense Force historically involved in domestic politics, and factional infighting in addition to the government feverishly suppressing a free press. Opposition in parliament may strengthen democracy's weak roots in Lesotho by promoting a favorable press environment. MILES' steadfast advocacy for constitutional reforms and a self-regulating media-driven body in opposition to government's media-control legislation holds further promise for an improved free press.


"Foreign Journalists Expelled, Harassed." Africa News Service. November 16, 2000.

Gamble, Paul. "Lesotho." In Economist Intelligence Unit Country Profile: Botswana and Lesoto (May 2002): 51-95.

Gay, J., D. Gill, and D. Hall, eds. Lesotho's Long Journey: Hard choices at the Crossroads." Maseru, Lesotho: Sechaba Consustants, 1995.

IMF. Lesotho Statistical Annex, June 2001.

Windhoek, Namibia. "Editor Loses Defamation Case." In Lesotho Alert. Media Institute of Southern Africa, October 23, 2000. Available from . "Minister Threatens to Fire Journalists." In Lesotho Alert. October 12, 1998. Available from

. "Speaker Lifts Ban Against Media." In Lesotho Alert. September 16, 1997. Available from

. "Speaker of Parliament Shuns Discussion on Ban." In Lesotho Alert. September 16, 1997. Available from

"World Development Indicators." World Bank. Washington, DC, 2002.

Saliwe M. Kawewe, Ph.D.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Lesotho." World Press Encyclopedia. . 22 Nov. 2017 <>.

"Lesotho." World Press Encyclopedia. . (November 22, 2017).

"Lesotho." World Press Encyclopedia. . Retrieved November 22, 2017 from


Lesotho (ləsō´tō), officially Kingdom of Lesotho, kingdom (2005 est. pop. 1,867,000), 11,720 sq mi (30,355 sq km), S Africa. It is an enclave within the Republic of South Africa. Maseru is the capital and largest city.

Land and People

The Drakensberg Range occupies the eastern part of the country; elevations vary from more than 11,000 ft (3,353 m) along the eastern frontier to c.8,000 ft (2,440 m) farther west. The rest of the kingdom is a heavily populated, rocky tableland with a semiarid to semihumid climate. The population is comprised almost totally of the Sotho people. About 80% are Christian, and the balance adhere to indigenous religions. Most of Lesotho's small non-African population is engaged in administrative, commercial, or missionary work. English and Sesotho (a Bantu tongue) are the official languages of the kingdom; Zulu and Xhosa are also spoken.


All land in Lesotho is held by the king in trust for the Sotho nation and is apportioned on his behalf by local chiefs; non-Sotho may not hold land. Only a tenth of Lesotho's land is arable. Corn, wheat, pulses, sorghum, and barley are cultivated; much of the workforce is engaged in subsistence farming. Many staples, however, must be imported from South Africa. Agricultural production has been hurt by soil exhaustion and erosion and recurring drought. Sheep are bred for wool, and cattle and Angora goats are raised.

Lesotho is a water-rich nation in a water-starved region. The Lesotho Highlands water scheme, a six-dam project scheduled to be completed in 2015, already provides water and hydroelectricity for Lesotho and South Africa. Mineral resources include some diamonds.

The country has light industries, including food and beverages, textiles, apparel assembly, and handicrafts. Tourism is also important; the country has two national parks bordering on the Drakensberg Range. Some 60,000 citizens are employed in South Africa's mining industry, down considerably from the 1980s; their remittances nonetheless provide an important source of revenue. Lesotho's main exports are clothing, footwear, road vehicles, wool and mohair, foodstuffs, and live animals. Imports include food, building materials, vehicles, machinery, medicines, and petroleum products. The United States, China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan are the main trading partners.


Lesotho is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy and is governed under the constitution of 1993. The king is head of state but has no executive or legislative powers. The government is headed by a prime minister, who is the leader of the majority party in the Assembly. There is a bicameral Parliament. The 33-member Senate consists of the 22 principal chiefs and 11 other members appointed by the ruling party. Of the 120 members of the Assembly, 80 are elected by popular vote and 40 by proportional vote, all for five-year terms. Administratively, Lesotho is divided into ten districts.


San (Bushmen), who were the region's earliest known inhabitants, were supplanted several centuries prior to colonization by various Bantu-speaking peoples, including those that came to be the Sotho and the Zulu. The Sotho are made up of remnants of ethnic groups that were scattered during the disturbances accompanying the rise of the Zulu (1816–30). They were rallied c.1820 by Moshoeshoe, a commoner who founded a dynasty in what is now Lesotho. Moshoeshoe not only defended his people from Zulu raids but preserved their independence against Boer and British interlopers. He also welcomed Catholic and Protestant missionaries.

Following wars with the Boer-ruled Orange Free State in 1858 and 1865, Moshoeshoe put the Sotho under British protection (1868), establishing the protectorate of Basutoland. The protectorate was annexed to Cape Colony in 1871 without Sotho consent, but in 1884 it was placed under the direct control of Britain. When the Union of South Africa was forged in 1910, Basutoland came under the jurisdiction of the British High Commissioner in South Africa. Provisions were made for the eventual incorporation of the territory into the union, but Sotho opposition, especially after the rise of the Nationalist party with its apartheid policy, prevented annexation. In 1960 the British granted Basutoland a new constitution that paved the way to internal self-government.

On Oct. 4, 1966, Basutoland became independent as Lesotho. Following general elections in early 1970, which the opposition Basutoland Congress party (later the Basotho Congress party; BCP) apparently won, Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan declared a state of emergency and suspended the constitution. King Moshoeshoe II went into exile but returned at the end of the year, thereafter serving largely as a figurehead. In 1973 an interim assembly began work on a new constitution, but the BCP, led by Ntsu Mokhehle, refused to participate.

In Jan., 1974, Jonathan accused the BCP of attempting to stage a coup; the party was outlawed and hundreds of its members reportedly killed. Armed clashes between the Lesotho Liberation Army (the militarized segment of the BCP) and the government were common throughout the 1970s and 80s. In the late 1970s, Jonathan exploited growing popular resentment of South Africa and its policies of apartheid. South Africa responded by organizing economic blockades and military raids against Lesotho.

Maj. Gen. Justinus Lekhanya led a coup in 1986 that installed King Moshoeshoe II as head of state. After prolonged disputes with Lekhanya over power, the king went into exile. In 1990, Moshoeshe II's son, Letsie III, became king but was reduced to a purely ceremonial role. Lekhanya was overthrown (1991) in a bloodless coup, and Col. Elias Tutsoane Ramaena came to power as chairman of a six-member military council.

A free election in 1993, the first in 23 years, resulted in a BCP landslide, and Ntsu Mokhehle became prime minister. In 1994 fighting between two rival army factions unsettled the young democracy; the king ousted Mokhehle but was pressured by other S African nations to reinstate him. In Jan., 1995, Letsie abdicated in favor of his father, Moshoeshoe II. After Moshoeshoe was killed in an automobile accident in Jan., 1996, Letsie was restored to the throne.

In 1997, Mokhehle remained prime minister as he broke from the BCP and founded the Lesotho Congress for Democracy party (LCD), reducing the BCP to the opposition. Mokhehle died in Jan., 1998; new elections were called in May, and Pakalitha Mosisili of the LCD secured the prime ministership. Demonstrators charging election fraud staged violent protests in Maseru, causing severe damage. In Sept., 1998, South Africa and Botswana sent troops into the country to restore order.

In Oct., 1998, the government and the opposition agreed to form a transitional body to organize new elections within 18 months. Elections were held in May, 2002, under a revamped electoral system designed to increase opposition representation in the parliament. The LCD again won the elections. The effects of a three-year drought led Prime Minister Mosisili to appeal for international food aid in early 2004. A split in the LCD in Oct., 2006, reduced its majority in parliament to one vote and led to new elections in Feb., 2007, that again resulted in an LCD victory. Opposition unhappiness with the elections led to internationally mediated negotiations (2009–11) that resulted in constitutional and electoral law revisions.

Serious drought and food shortages were again a problem in 2007. Mosisili survived an apparent assassination attempt in Apr., 2009. Frustration within the LCD over Mosisili's refusal to step down as party leader led Mosisili to form the Democratic Congress (DC) in 2012. In the May, 2012, elections the DC won the largest bloc of seats, but the All Basotho Convention (ABC), the LCD, and three other parties formed a coalition government in June, with ABC leader Thomas Thabane as prime minister.

Two years later Thabane suspended parliament, leading to tensions in the coalition. In Aug., 2014, after Thabane fired defense forces chief Tlali Kamoli and replaced him with Maaparankoe Mahao, Kamoli's supporters in the army moved against the police and Thabane fled to South Africa, accusing the army and Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing of a coup, which they denied. A South African–mediated agreement returned Thabane to office but also called for new elections in Feb., 2015; parliament reconvened in Oct., 2014. The DC won a narrow plurality in the 2015 elections, and formed a multiparty coalition that included the LCD. Mosisili became prime minister and restored Kamoli as defense forces chief. In June, 2015, Mahao was killed by soldiers, sparking new tensions. AIDS is a serious health issue in the country, and has contributed to economic difficulties in the early 21st cent.


See J. D. Omer-Cooper, Zulu Aftermath: A Nineteenth Century Revolution in Bantu Africa (1966); B. M. Khaketla, Lesotho 1970 (1972); J. E. Bardill and J. H. Cobbe, Lesotho: Dilemmas of Dependence in Southern Africa (1985).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Lesotho." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 22 Nov. 2017 <>.

"Lesotho." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (November 22, 2017).

"Lesotho." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved November 22, 2017 from



Official name: Kingdom of Lesotho

Area: 30,355 square kilometers (11,720 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Mount Ntlenyana (3,482 meters/11,424 feet)

Lowest point on land: Junction of the Orange and Makhaleng Rivers (1,400 meters/4,593 feet)

Hemispheres: Eastern and Southern

Time zone: 1 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 248 kilometers (154 miles) from north-northeast to south-southwest; 181 kilometers (112 miles) from west-northwest to east-southeast

Land boundaries: 909 kilometers (565 miles) total boundary length; all with South Africa

Coastline: None

Territorial sea limits: None


Lesotho is one of the smallest countries in Africa, and one of only three sovereign nations in the world to be comh2etely surrounded by another country (the other two similar enclaves are San Marino and Vatican City). It borders the South African provinces of KwaZulu/Natal to the east, Eastern Cape to the south, and Orange Free State to the north and west. Lesotho covers an area of 30,355 square kilometers (11,720 square miles), or slightly more than the state of Maryland.


Lesotho has no territories or dependencies.


Lesotho has a dry, temperate climate, with mean temperatures of 21°C (70°F) in summer and 7°C (45°F) in winter. Extremes range from 32°C (90°F) to 7°C (20°F) in the lowlands, with winter temperatures in the highlands sometimes plummeting below 18°C (0°F). On average, there are over 300 sunny days per year.

Rainfall ranges from 60 centimeters (24 inches) in the lowlands to 191 centimeters (75 inches) in the mountains. Most rain falls between October and April. Lesotho is prone to damaging hail in the summer and periodic disastrous drought. The Maloti Mountains are generally snowcapped in winter.


Located on the Drakensburg Escarpment, which forms its eastern border with KwaZulu province in South Africa, Lesotho is mostly mountainous. Even its "lowlands," a strip of land lying lengthwise along its northeast-southwest border, have an average elevation of 1,524 to 1,829 meters (5,000 to 6,000 feet). Occupying roughly a quarter of the country, they extend eastward to the Cave Sandstone Foothills. These foothills form a narrow band bordering the eastern highlands.


Lesotho is landlocked.


Lesotho has no inland lakes.


Most of Lesotho is drained by the Orange River and the Caledon River, which forms the country's western border. The Orange and Tugela Rivers, as well as the tributaries of the Caledon, rise in the northern plateau region, where the Maloti Mountains merge with the main Drakensburg Range. Three other important rivers flow from north to south and feed into the Orange. The Kometspruit (Makhaleng) is in western Lesotho, the Senqunyane flows through the center of the country, and the Malibamatso runs through northeastern Lesotho. The Maletsunyane River is notable for the Maletsunyane Falls, located in Semonkong. The falls drop from a height of 192 meters (630 feet), making it the tallest waterfall in southern Africa.


Lesotho has no deserts.


The Western Lowlands cover approximately a quarter of the country's land area, between the Caledon River and the Cave Sandstone Foothills. They consist of undulating basins and plains ranging in width from 10 kilometers (6 miles) to 64 kilometers (40 miles), with altitudes averaging between 1,524 and 1,829 meters (5,000 and 6,000 feet). With an average altitude of between 1,829 and 2,134 meters (6,000 and 7,000 feet), the Cave Sandstone Foothills constitute an intermediate region between the highlands and the lowlands.


Mountains cover two-thirds of Lesotho, resulting in the nickname "the Switzerland of Africa." Lesotho's highlands are part of the Drakensburg Mountains, which rise in the east and then drop abruptly at the border with South Africa. The Maloti Mountains, in the center of the country, are a spur of the Drakensburg system, joining it in the north. The average elevation of the highlands is over 2,438 meters (8,000 feet). They rise to heights of over 3,048 meters (10,000 feet) in the east and northeast, reaching their highest point at Mount Ntlenyana on the eastern border.


The ruins of caves once inhabited by cannibals can be found near the mountain fortress of Thaba Bosiu.


The northern area where the Maloti Mountains join the Drakensburg system consists of a high plateau with average elevations between 2,700 and 3,200 meters (8,900 and 10,500 feet).


Maseru Bridge and Ficksburg Bridge are two of the major road links between Lesotho and South Africa.


Lesotho is the only country in the world whose lowest elevation is more than 1,000 meters (3,281 feet) above sea level.



Baedeker South Africa. New York: Macmillan Travel, 1996.

Murray, Jon, and Jeff Williams. South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland. London: Lonely Planet, 2000.

Turco, Marco. Visitors' Guide to Lesotho: How to Get There, What to See, Where to Stay. Johannesburg: Southern Book Publishers, 1994.

Web Sites

Consular Information Sheet. (accessed April 24, 2003).

Mbendi Lesotho Overview. (accessed April 17, 2003).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Lesotho." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Physical Geography. . 22 Nov. 2017 <>.

"Lesotho." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Physical Geography. . (November 22, 2017).

"Lesotho." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Physical Geography. . Retrieved November 22, 2017 from


Lesotho (formerly Basutoland)


30,350sq km (11,718sq mi)



capital (population):

Maseru (169,200)


Constitutional monarchy

ethnic groups:

Sotho 99%


Sesotho and English (both official)


Christianity 93% (Roman Catholic 44%), traditional beliefs 6%


Loti = 100 lisente

Enclave kingdom within the Republic of South Africa; the capital is Maseru.

Land and Climate

The scenic Drakensberg Range forms Lesotho's ne border with KwaZulu-Natal, and includes its highest peak, Thabana Ntlenyana, at 3482m (11,424ft). Most people live in the w lowlands, site of Maseru, or in the s valley of the River Orange, which rises in ne Lesotho and flows through South Africa to the Atlantic Ocean. The King holds all land in Lesotho, in trust for the Sotho nation. Altitude greatly affects Lesotho's climate; 66% of the land lies above 1500m (4921ft). Maseru has warm summers and cold winters. Rainfall averages c.700mm (28in). Grassland covers much of Lesotho.

History and Politics

The early 19th-century tribal wars dispersed the Sotho. In the 1820s, Moshoeshoe I formed a Sotho kingdom in present-day Lesotho. Moshoeshoe I was forced to yield to the British, and in 1868 the area became a protectorate. In 1871, it became part of the British Cape Colony, but after British failure to disarm the Sotho, the area fell under direct rule. In 1966, Sotho opposition to incorporation into the Union of South Africa saw the creation of the independent Kingdom of Lesotho. Moshoeshoe II, great-grandson of Moshoeshoe I, became king. In 1970, Leabua Jonathan suspended the constitution and banned opposition parties. Civil conflict between the government and Basuto Congress Party (BCP) forces characterized the next 16 years. In 1986, a military coup led to the reinstatement of Moshoeshoe II. In 1990, he was deposed and replaced by his son, Letsie III. The BCP won the 1992 multiparty elections, and the military council dissolved. In 1994, Letsie III attempted to overthrow the government. In 1995, Moshoeshoe II returned to the throne. His death (1996) saw the restoration of Letsie III. In 1997, a majority of BCP politicians formed a new governing party, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD). Accusations of fraud in 1998 elections led to violent protests and an army mutiny. In September 1998, South African forces restored order and fresh elections took place in 2000.


Lesotho is a low-income, less-developed country (2000 GDP per capita, US$2400). It lacks natural resources, except diamonds. Agriculture, mainly at subsistence level, is the main activity. Major crops include maize and sorghum. Tourism is developing. Large numbers of the population work in South Africa.

Political map

Physical map


Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Lesotho." World Encyclopedia. . 22 Nov. 2017 <>.

"Lesotho." World Encyclopedia. . (November 22, 2017).

"Lesotho." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved November 22, 2017 from



Culture Name

Mosotho (singular); Basotho (plural)

Alternative Names

Kingdom of Lesotho; formerly known as Basutoland


Identification. The area now called The Kingdom of Lesotho (pronounced le-Soo-too) was originally Basutoland. Both names derive from the common language, Sotho, which was spoken by the many groups which united to form the nation in the early 1800s. Lesotho is often referred to as "The Kingdom in the Sky" or "The Switzerland of southern Africa" because of the stark beauty of its rugged mountainous terrain. It is also described as "The Hostage State" due to the unfortunate situation of being completely surrounded by and dependent upon the Republic of South Africa.

Location and Geography. Covering 11,718 square miles (30,355 square kilometers), the Kingdom of Lesotho is approximately the size of Maryland. The area is ruggedly mountainous, landlocked, and completely surrounded by The Republic of South Africa. It lies between latitudes 28 degrees and 31 degrees south and longitudes 27 degrees and 30 degrees east. The lowlands in the west and south rise from forty-five hundred feet (fifteen-hundred meters) to the highlands of the Maluti and Drakensberg mountain ranges whose highest point, Thabana Ntlenyana, is approximately 10,400 feet (thirty-five hundred meters). Lesotho is unique as being the only nation in the world with all of its land situated more than 3,280 feet (one thousand meters) above sea level. The terrain consists of high veld, plateau, and mountains. The climate is temperate with hot summers and cool to cold winters. A long rainy season during the summer months (December to February) combined with freezing conditions in the winter (June to August) creates adverse travel conditions which isolate much of the highland areas. A wealth of rivers and waterfalls makes Lesotho valuable to the surrounding arid industrial areas of South Africa. The soils are poor, a result of over-grazing, over-cropping, and serious erosion, with only one-eighth of the land being arable.

Demography. The population of Lesotho, in 1998, was estimated to be 2,089,289 with a growth rate of 1.9 percent. At the end of the twentieth century these figures could alter rapidly as the HIV/AIDS crisis impacts the general population. The people of Lesotho are called Basotho (plural) and Mosotho (singular). The culture is cohesive, with Basotho comprising over 99 percent of the country's population, the remainder being of Asian of European origin. Most Asians are traders while the Europeans are businessmen, technicians, government officials, missionaries, and teachers. The highlands are sparsely populated with most of the administrative headquarters and towns located in the lowlands area.

Linguistic Affiliations. Sesotho, or Southern Sotho, is spoken in Lesotho as well as in parts of South Africa. Sesotho was one of the first African languages to develop a written form and it has an extensive literature. English is the second official language, dating back to 1868 when Lesotho was placed under the British for protection against South African aggression. Zulu and Xhosa are spoken by a small minority.

Symbolism. The spectacular scenery of Lesotho's rugged mountains, massive gullies (called dongas ), and sparkling waterfalls create a tourist's dream destination. Picturesque villages, herdboys with their flocks, men on horseback, and women wearing the national dress of Moshoeshoe depicted in the angora wool wall hangings and rugs of Basotho fame.

The Basotho hat, a conical woven hat with a distinctive topknot, is a symbol of Lesotho's unification. It depicts a mountaintop, conical and topknotted, which is visible from the fortress and tomb of Moshoeshoe I (pronounced mo-SHWAY-shway) near Masaru. Both men and women invariably wear the wool Basotho blanket as a cloak, regardless of the season. The careful selection of color and pattern allows for individual expression.

Everywhere in Lesotho one will see the small, sturdy Sotho pony, adept at negotiating the steep mountains and gullies and indispensable for carrying the grain to the mill for grinding. The nation's flag, adopted in 1987, has diagonal stripes of white, blue, and green. White is symbolic for peace (khotso ), blue for rain (pula ), and green for plenty (nala ). A shield that is part of the country's coat of arms appears in the upper left diagonal space. The national anthem is "Lesotho, Land of our Fathers" (Lesotho fatse la bontat'a rona ).

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Lesotho was originally inhabited by the Bushmen who roamed southern Africa, as evidenced by the Bushmen drawings and paintings in the river gorges. During the 1700s and 1800s, tribal wars in southern Africa decimated many tribes. Survivors of the wars fled into the highlands of what is now Lesotho and, under the leadership of an African chief named Moshoeshoe, formed the current Basotho ethnic group. Moshoeshoe established fortresses in the mountains and consolidated the Sotho-speaking inhabitants into a nation in the early 1800s. During the middle of the 1800s, the Basotho nation lost much of its territory to the Boers in a series of wars. Moshoeshoe appealed to Great Britain for protection and the remaining area became a British protectorate. In 1966 the nation gained independence and the constitutional monarchy of Lesotho was established. Moshoeshoe II, great-grandson of Moshoeshoe I, was installed as king and head of state, and Leabua Jonathan served as prime minister and head of government. Although Lesotho has undergone politic strife and change during the past thirty years, the Basotho are bonded by a deep reverence for the royal family and a fierce determination to remain an independent nation.

National Identity. Lesotho is a very homogenous nation, both in terms of the ethnic makeup of its population as well as religion and culture. Lesotho's strong cultural identity does not translate into a strong national identity, however, since its location deep in the heart of South Africa has historically forced the small country into dependence on its much larger neighbor.

Ethnic Relations. The Sotho ethnic group comprises almost 100 percent of Lesotho's population. The homogeneous makeup of the country has allowed Lesotho to avoid much of the civil unrest that has plagued other African nations with more ethnically diverse populations.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Over 80 percent of the population live in the lowlands where soil conditions are more favorable for agriculture. The western border of Lesotho has one of the highest population densities in Africa. Maseru (ma-SAY-roo), population of 400,000, is the capital city, located in this western border area. Political strife in 1998 resulted in a frenzy of looting and burning which destroyed the main thoroughfare and infrastructure of Maseru. Although much rebuilding has occurred, many historical buildings were lost. Other semi-urban areas are called "camptowns" and are very rustic in appearance. The main camptowns are Teyateyaneng, population twenty-four thousand; Leribe, population three-hundred thousand; Mafeteng, population 212,000; Mohale's Hoek, population 184,000. Most Basotho live in villages of fewer than 250 people.

The cattle pen (krall ) is the nucleus of family groups who build their huts in a spaced fashion around the pen. Traditional huts are constructed of mud and dung walls with thatched roofs. These round houses (rondovals ) are often decorated with bright designs. Each village has a meeting place (khotla ) where business is conducted. The areas around the villages are owned in common by the people and the land is assigned by the chief for family farming.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. A three-stone fireplace in the courtyard is the focal point of the Basotho women's daily activity. Here they prepare the pot of cornmeal porridge (pap-pap ) which is the staple of the Basotho. Usually a sauce of peas, chopped greens, or other vegetables accompanies the thick porridge, and on special occasions a chicken is added to the pot. During the summer season, local peaches, and small, hard fruits add variety to the diet. In the winter, family members sit around the three-stone fireplace and roast ears of dried corn.

A local beer (joale ) is brewed in a large vat placed on the three-stone fireplace. This beer is the center of informal neighborhood gatherings and provides a small income for the family. Milk is often served as a soured drink.

Maseru has a number of modern restaurants that are mostly patronized by business and professional people and tourists.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. In the villages, cultural rites are predominately centered around the sacrifice of a cow. Funerals often drain a poor family's assets as a cow must be purchased at great expense. A family's honor is dependent on the quality and quantity of food at wedding and funeral gatheringsspit-roasted cow and chicken are mandatory.

Basic Economy. Lesotho is a developing country with a free-market economy. It boasts few natural resources and is dependent on imported food and materials to meet the basic needs of the population. Nearly all families engage in subsistence farming, consisting mostly of corn, wheat, peas, and beans, but the depleted soil does not yield sufficient crops to feed them. Lesotho's economy is fragile, even with the benefits it derives from South Africa which include a partially shared customs union, a single currency (the South African rand is used interchangeably with the Lesotho loti ), and an integrated communications system. A major sustaining factor in the country's economy is employment found in South African mines, farms, and industries. Approximately 35 percent of active male wage earners work most of the year in surrounding South Africa, resulting in family income but having a detrimental effect on family life. In the United Nations Development Program's ranking of countries of the world in 2000, which considers the factors of life expectancy, income, education, and health care, Lesotho ranked 127th out of 174 countries.

Land Tenure and Property. All land is held in trust for the Basotho nation by the king and may not be alienated. The local chiefs allocate farmland to individuals, and user rights are generally available to married males. A 1979 act increases security of tenure by recording rights of inheritance and allowing mortgaging and subletting of land.

Commercial Activities. Lesotho's abundance of cattle, sheep, and goats provides a basis for a wool and mohair industry. Although there are no other large industries, small industries and businesses are supported by national and foreign assistance and are having some success. Perhaps the most promising, although highly controversial, effort to improve the economy is the Highlands Water Project which is designed to utilize the nation's valuable resource of water to provide electricity, employment, and economic development for the general population. The project involves the construction of a series of six dams and hundreds of miles of tunnels to funnel water into the arid industrial areas of nearby South Africa, for which Lesotho will receive monetary compensation. The controversy arising from the project revolves around the detrimental effect of the relocation of area communities, the delayed compensation for the loss of ancestral lands, and the social problems associated with large construction sites.

Major Industries. Lesotho has a wide variety of light industries, which include tire retreading, tapestry weaving, diamond processing, and production of textiles, electric lighting, candles, ceramics, explosives, furniture, and fertilizers.

Trade. Lesotho has trade relations with South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, Namibia, North America, and Europe. Imported items are primarily corn, clothing, building materials, vehicles, petroleum products, machinery, and medicines. Exports include clothing, furniture, footwear, and wool products.

Social Stratification

Symbols of Social Stratification. Cattle represent wealth in Lesotho and the Basotho value cows above money. The wealthy villager usually lives in a concrete block house with a metal roof instead of a rondoval, and usually has two outdoor bathrooms as opposed to the single outhouse other families possess and often share. The very wealthy send their children to private schools and often to the one university in Lesotho at Roma, or to England or Canada for further education. In the villages, an automobile is an unusual and significant symbol of upper social status.

Government. The government of Lesotho is a constitutional monarchy with the capital in Maseru. The country is divided into ten administrative districts. The legal system is based on English common law and Roman Dutch law. The executive branch has a king as chief of state and since 1996 King Letsie III has filled this position. The legislative branch is composed of a bicameral parliament with a senate appointed by the ruling party and an assembly chosen by popular vote. The judicial branch is the high court, with a chief justice appointed by the monarch. The monarchy is hereditary and is a living symbol of national unity with no executive legislative powers. In January 1993 Lesotho became a democracy. The constitution was adopted on 2 April 1993.

Leadership and Political Officials. There are three major political parties: The Basotho National Party (BNP), the Basotho Congress Party (BCP), and the Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP). The BNP was the major force behind Lesotho's drive for independence and became the government's ruling party following independence in 1966. The BNP maintained control of the government by suspending elections and the constitution in 1970 and remained in power with strong military backing until multiparty elections finally became a reality in 1993. The BCP, the major opposition party, is more Pan-Africanist than the BNP, and assumed power following the 1993 elections. The MFP was formed in 1965 by the merger of two parties that had supported the chieftaincy.

Social Problems and Controls. Traditional authority is the basis of village government. The system of chieftaincy follows the progression of paramount chief (the king), senior chiefs, sub-chiefs, headmen and sub-headmen. Their primary role is the authority to distribute the land of the nation to the people. Many political affiliations are passed down through the chain, with entire villages voting in accord during an election. Village crimes of a minor nature are judged in the village court, often a grassy area under a tree. Local groups mete out the punishments that are handed down. Serious crimes of theft or murder are removed from the village to the regional and national courts and institutions of imprisonment.

Military Activity. The Lesotho Defense Force (LDF) and the Lesotho Mounted Police comprise the nation's security forces. These two factions have developed an antagonistic relationship since 1997 when the army was called upon to put down a serious police mutiny.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

Lesotho has received economic and social welfare aid from a number of countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and Germany. The escalating crisis of HIV/AIDS has mobilized assistance from a variety of sources including UNAIDS/WHO. The United States Peace Corps has been active in Lesotho since 1966. The volunteers are involved in working in the fields of agriculture, education, rural development, women's issues, and the environment. In 2000, specially trained volunteers were enlisted to address the HIV/AIDS issue in this and other African nations.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Most of the agriculture and home building is done by the women. They hoe, plant, and weed, and harvest the crops. They walk great distances to obtain firewood and carry the load home on their backs, often with an infant wedged between the tree branches. Water must be carried from the village pump for cooking, drinking, washing, and laundry. Clothing is scrubbed and hung on bushes to dry.

Men are primarily responsible for the livestock. Boys begin training for herding at age five or six. In the highlands, where pasture is scarce, herdboys often spend months alone with their flocks in a mountain valley some distance from their home. Girls similarly begin life-role training as soon as they are able to carry a sibling on their back and a pail of water on their head.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. As in most African countries, a female has no power, authority, right, or privilege, unless it is granted by a male. A wife is the property of her husband. However, women play a powerful role through their religious organizations and societies and have attained suffrage.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Lesotho is a blend of past and present, traditional and modern beliefs and practices. While church ceremonies are customary for weddings, the practice of extracting brideswealth from the man's family continues, making a family of daughters a lucrative situation. In turn, the bride becomes the property of the man, and leaves her family to live with the family of her husband.

Domestic Unit. The domestic unit consists of any number of the extended family. Often second or third cousins become "brothers" or "sisters." Grandmothers become official mothers. By tribal custom, widows become a wife of the brother or other male member of her deceased husband's family.

Kin Groups. The clans of the Sotho are often named for animals such as crocodiles and bears. The line of descendants is through the male, and members of the same clan are allowed to marry relatives as close as cousins.


Infant Care. Compared to western standards, infant care in Lesotho is casual. The infant and young child spend much of their first two years bound to their mother's backs as she performs her household chores, hoes the fields, and markets or travels. Babies usually nurse for up to two years of age or until a new baby is born. At that time, an older sister usually assumes the caretaker role.

Child Rearing and Education. "It takes a village to raise a child" is a well-known and accurate description of African practices. Every village woman is eligible to correct an erring child, to rescue one in difficulty, and to encourage all. When a child is able to begin school (age varies from five to ten years) the mandatory school dress or shirt is passed from one family to another. Many boys do not attend school for years because they begin at age five or six to herd and care for the livestock.

Higher Education. There are two major institutions of higher learning in Lesotho: the National University of Lesotho and the Lesotho Agricultural College. A very small percentage of the population reaches this level of education. Very wealthy families send their children to higher education in England.


Religious Beliefs. Religion in Lesotho is a mix of traditionally based ancestor worship and Christianity (about 80 percent), with a small representation of Islam. The main church groups are Catholic, Anglican, and Dutch Reformed. The dominance of the Catholic religion reflects the church's involvement in education, with over 75 percent of all primary and secondary schools being owned and managed by Catholics. Many church services include traditional Lesotho rituals such as chanting, drumming, and cultural costumes.

Medicine and Health Care

Lesotho is essentially a healthy country. A good climate eliminates the widespread African problem of malaria. The primary diseases are chronic rheumatism, respiratory tract infections, malnutrition, and venereal diseases in addition to an escalating number of HIV/AIDS cases. Health centers, mountain dispensaries, and traditional medical practitioners are available and primarily used by the village population.

Secular Celebrations

The two days which all of Lesotho celebrates are Moshoeshoe's Day (12 March) and Independence Day (4 October). Moshoeshoe's Day is for the nation's school children, who prepare throughout the year for choir and sports competitions. Independence Day is a time for formal state ceremonies, speeches, and traditional dance group performances.

The Arts and Humanities

Literature. Sotho literature is dominated by folktales and praise poems. Early in the 1900s a Masotho named Thomas Mofolo wrote the famous and widely read novel Chaka.

Performance Arts. Traditional music, dance, and literature combine in Sotho cultural performances. Storytellers, dancers, and musicians join with audience chanting, clapping, and singing to retell ancient folktales. The involvement with mining has produced a unique tradition of singing and dancing males, with high-kicking group dances. Many handmade instruments include whistles, drums, rattles, and stringed instruments.


Africa South of the Sahara 1999, 1998.

Ashton, Hugh. The Basuto, 1952.

Central Intelligence Agency. "Lesotho." World Fact Book, 1995.

Hull, Richard. Modern Africa, 1980.

Johnson, D. "Lesotho," World Biographical Series, 1996.

"Lesotho," Epidemiological Fact Sheet on HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections. UNAIDS/World Health Organization, 2000.

"Lesotho," The New Book of Knowledge, 1996.

Web Sites

"Sesotho-Southern Sotho." 2000.

U.S. Department of State Annual. "Lesotho," Report on International Religious Freedom for 1999

Patricia Osborn Stoddard

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Lesotho." Countries and Their Cultures. . 22 Nov. 2017 <>.

"Lesotho." Countries and Their Cultures. . (November 22, 2017).

"Lesotho." Countries and Their Cultures. . Retrieved November 22, 2017 from

Lesotho, kingdom of

Lesotho, kingdom of. Former British crown colony of Basutoland. Threatened by the Boers of the Orange Free State, Mshweshwe, the ruler of the Basuto, sought British protection in 1843 and in 1869 agreed to the annexation of his country. Britain handed the administration of Basutoland to Cape Colony in 1871, but so badly did the colony's government fulfil its obligations that the Basuto rebelled. At the request of Cape Colony, and with the agreement of the Basuto, Britain reluctantly declared the territory to be a crown colony in 1885. Basutoland was administered by its traditional rulers under British supervision until it became independent in 1965.

Kenneth Ingham

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Lesotho, kingdom of." The Oxford Companion to British History. . 22 Nov. 2017 <>.

"Lesotho, kingdom of." The Oxford Companion to British History. . (November 22, 2017).

"Lesotho, kingdom of." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Retrieved November 22, 2017 from


LESOTHO. A country of southern Africa and member of the COMMONWEALTH. Languages: Sesotho and English (both official). The first BANTU-speaking peoples arrived in the area in the 16c. In 1854, the territory was incorporated by the Boers into the Orange Free State, but in 1869 became the British protectorate of Basutoland. The territory gained internal self-government in 1955 and independence as Lesotho in 1966.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"LESOTHO." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . 22 Nov. 2017 <>.

"LESOTHO." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . (November 22, 2017).

"LESOTHO." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . Retrieved November 22, 2017 from




The people of Lesotho are called Sotho (or Basotho).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Lesotho." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . 22 Nov. 2017 <>.

"Lesotho." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . (November 22, 2017).

"Lesotho." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Retrieved November 22, 2017 from


LesothoBantu, stand-to •Manawatu, Vanuatu •passe-partout • gentoo • lean-to •pistou •into, thereinto •manitou • onto • Motu •Basotho, Hutu, Lesotho, Mobutu, Sotho, tutu •hereunto, thereunto, unto •surtout

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Lesotho." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . 22 Nov. 2017 <>.

"Lesotho." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . (November 22, 2017).

"Lesotho." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved November 22, 2017 from