2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: African Countries; Countries

Muso oa Lesotho
Kingdom of Lesotho
Flag of Lesotho Coat of arms of Lesotho
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: "Khotso, Pula, Nala"  ( Sotho)
"Peace, Rain, Prosperity"
Anthem: Lesotho Fatse La Bontata Rona
Location of Lesotho
(and largest city)
29°18′S 27°28′E
Official languages Sesotho, English
Government Constitutional monarchy
 - King Letsie III
 - Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili
 - from the United Kingdom October 4, 1966 
 - Total 30,355 km² ( 140th)
11,717 sq mi 
 - Water (%) negligible
 - July 2005 estimate 1,795,0001 ( 146th)
 - 2004 census 1,861,959
 - Density 59/km² ( 138th)
153/sq mi
GDP ( PPP) 2005 estimate
 - Total $4.996 billion ( 150th)
 - Per capita $2,113 ( 139th)
HDI  (2003) 0.497 (low) ( 149th)
Currency Loti ( LSL)
Time zone ( UTC+2)
Internet TLD .ls
Calling code +266
1 Estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected.

Lesotho (pronounced [lɪˈsuːtu]), officially the Kingdom of Lesotho, is a land-locked country, entirely surrounded by the Republic of South Africa. Formerly Basutoland, it is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The name Lesotho roughly translates into "the land of the people who speak Sotho."


The earliest inhabitants of the area were Khoisan hunter-gatherers. They were largely replaced by Bantu-speaking tribes during Bantu migrations. The present Lesotho emerged as a single polity (state) under paramount chief Moshoeshoe I in 1822; it was recognized by Britain on 13 December 1843,and on 12 March 1868 became the High Commission Territories. On 30 April 1965 it was granted autonomy. Its name was changed when Lesotho gained full independence from the United Kingdom on October 4, 1966. In January 1970 the ruling Basotho National Party (BNP) lost the first post-independence general elections, with 23 seats to the Basutoland Congress Party's 36. Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan refused to cede power to the Basotho Congress Party (BCP), declared himself Tono Kholo (Sesotho translation of prime minister), and imprisoned the BCP leadership.

The BCP began a rebellion and then received training in Libya for its Lesotho Liberation Army (LLA) under the pretence of being Azanian People's Liberation Army (APLA) soldiers of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC). Deprived of arms and supplies by the Sibeko faction of the PAC in 1978, the 178-strong LLA was rescued from their Tanzanian base by the financial assistance of a Maoist PAC officer but launched the guerilla war with a handful of old weapons. The main force was defeated in northern Lesotho and thereafter guerrillas launched sporadic but usually ineffectual attacks. The campaign was severely compromised when Ntsu Mokhehle, the BCP leader, went over to Pretoria. In the early 1980s, several Basotho who sympathized with the exiled BCP were threatened with death and attacked by the government of Leabua Jonathan. In September 1981 Edgar Mahlomola Motuba was taken from his home and murdered. A few months later the family of Benjamin Masilo was attacked.

The BNP ruled by decree until January 1986 when a military coup forced them out of office. The Military Council that came into power granted executive powers to King Moshoeshoe II, who was until then a ceremonial monarch. In 1987, however, the King was forced into exile after a falling out with the army. His son was installed as King Letsie III.

The chairman of the military junta, Major General Justin Metsing Lekhanya, was ousted in 1991 and then replaced by Major General Elias Phisoana Ramaema, who handed over power to a democratically elected government of the BCP in 1993. Moshoeshoe II returned from exile in 1992 as an ordinary citizen. After the return to democratic government, King Letsie III tried unsuccessfully to persuade the BCP government to reinstate his father (Moshoeshoe II) as head of state. In August 1994, Letsie III staged a coup which was backed by the military and deposed the BCP government. The new government did not receive full international recognition. Member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) engaged in negotiations aimed at the reinstatement of the BCP government. One of the conditions put forward by the King for the return of the BCP government was that his father should be re-installed as head of state. After protracted negotiations, the BCP government was reinstated and the King abdicated in favour of his father in 1995, but Moshoeshoe II died in a car accident in 1996 and was again succeeded by his son, Letsie III. The ruling BCP split over leadership disputes in 1997.

Prime Minister Ntsu Mokhehle formed a new party, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), and was followed by a majority of Members of Parliament, which enabled him to form a new government. The LCD won the general elections in 1998 under the leadership of Pakalitha Mosisili, who had succeeded Mokhehle as party leader. Despite the elections being pronounced free and fair by local and international observers and a subsequent special commission appointed by SADC, the opposition political parties rejected the results.

Opposition protests in the country intensified, culminating in a peaceful demonstration outside the royal palace in August 2000. Exact details of what followed are greatly disputed and it remains a contentious topic even within South Africa, but in September of that year, an SADC task force operating on orders of unclear provenance entered the capital city. While the Botswana troops were welcomed, tensions with South African National Defence Force troops were high, resulting in fighting. Incidences of sporadic rioting intensified when South African troops hoisted a South African flag over the Royal Palace. By the time the SADC forces withdrew in May 1999, much of Maseru lay in ruins, and the southern provincial capital towns of Mafeteng and Mohale's Hoek had seen the loss of over a third of their commercial real estate. A number of South Africans and Basotho also tragically died in the fighting.

An Interim Political Authority (IPA), charged with reviewing the electoral structure in the country, was created in December 1998. The IPA devised a proportional electoral system to ensure that the opposition would be represented in the National Assembly. The new system retained the existing 80 elected Assembly seats, but added 40 seats to be filled on a proportional basis. Elections were held under this new system in May 2002, and the LCD won again, gaining 54% of the vote. For the first time, however, opposition political parties won significant numbers of seats, and despite some irregularities and threats of violence from Major General Lekhanya, Lesotho experienced its first peaceful election. Nine opposition parties now hold all 40 of the proportional seats, with the BNP having the largest share (21). The LCD has 79 of the 80 constituency-based seats. Although its elected members participate in the National Assembly, the BNP has launched several legal challenges to the elections, including a recount; none has been successful.

Pakalitha Mosisili is the current Prime Minister. Prime Minister Mosisili's major issue is solving the problem of AIDS in Africa.


The Lesotho Government is a constitutional monarchy. The Prime Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili, is head of government and has 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.

The Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) controls a majority in the National Assembly (the lower house of parliament), with the Basotho National Party (BNP), Lesotho Peoples Congress, and the National Independent Party among the 9 opposition parties represented. The upper house of parliament, called the Senate, is composed of 22 principal chiefs whose membership is hereditary, and 11 appointees of the King, acting on the advice of the prime minister. The constitution provides for an independent judicial system. The judiciary is made up of the Court of Appeal, the High Court, Magistrate's Courts, and traditional courts that exist predominantly in rural areas. All but one of the Justices on the Court of Appeal are South African jurists. There is no trial by jury; rather, judges make rulings alone, or, in the case of criminal trials, with two other judges as observers. The constitution also protects basic civil liberties, including freedom of speech, association, and the press; freedom of peaceful assembly; and freedom of religion.

Administrative division.
Administrative division.

Administrative divisions

Administratively, Lesotho is divided into ten districts, each headed by a district secretary. Each district has a capital known as a camptown.

  • Berea
  • Butha-Buthe
  • Leribe
  • Mafeteng
  • Maseru
  • Mohale's Hoek
  • Mokhotlong
  • Qacha's Nek
  • Quthing
  • Thaba-Tseka

The districts are further subdivided into wards, which are presided over by hereditary chiefs and administered by district coordinators.


Satellite image of Lesotho, generated from raster graphics data supplied by The Map Library
Satellite image of Lesotho, generated from raster graphics data supplied by The Map Library

Lesotho covers 30,355 square kilometres (11,720  sq mi). The most notable geographic fact about Lesotho, apart from its status as an enclave, is that it is the only independent state in the world that lies entirely above 1,000 meters (3,300  ft) in elevation. Its lowest point is 1,400 metres (4,593 ft), and over 80% of the country lies above 1,800 metres (5,900 ft).


Snow on the Lesotho Moteng pass
Snow on the Lesotho Moteng pass

Lesotho, due to its altitude, remains cooler in the mountains throughout the year, with most of the rain falling as summer thunderstorms. Maseru and surrounding lowlands can often reach 30º C (86° F)in the summer months. Winters can be cold with the lowlands getting down to -7ºC (19°F)and the highlands to -18ºC (0°F) at times. Snow is common in the deserts and low valleys between May and September, however the higher peaks can experience snowfalls year-round.


Lesotho's economy is based on exports of water and electricity sold to South Africa, manufacturing, agriculture, livestock, and to some extent the earnings of laborers employed in South Africa. Lesotho also exports diamonds, wool, mohair, clothing, and footwear. One of Levi's jeans manufacturing facilities is located there. Lesotho is geographically surroundedSouth Africa and economically integrated with it as well. The majority of households subsist on farming or migrant labor, primarily miners in South Africa for 3 to 9 months. The western lowlands form the main agricultural zone. Almost 50% of the population earns some income through crop cultivation or animal husbandry, with over half the country's income coming from the agricultural sector.

Malealea, Lesotho landscape
Malealea, Lesotho landscape

Water is Lesotho's only significant natural resource. It is being exploited through the 20-year, multi-billion-dollar Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP), which was initiated in 1986. The LHWP is designed to capture, store, and transfer water from the Orange River system and send it to South Africa's Free State and greater Johannesburg area, which features a large concentration of South African industry, population, and agriculture. Completion of the first phase of the project has made Lesotho almost completely self-sufficient in the production of electricity and generated approximately $24 million annually from the sale of electricity and water to South Africa. The World Bank, African Development Bank, European Investment Bank, and many other bilateral donors financed the project. Lesotho has taken advantage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) to become the largest exporter of garments to the U.S. from sub-Saharan Africa. Exports totaled over $320 million in 2002. Employment reached over 50,000, marking the first time that manufacturing sector workers outnumbered government employees. Asian investors own most factories.

River Makhaleng Gorges in the Highlands of Lesotho
River Makhaleng Gorges in the Highlands of Lesotho

Lesotho has received economic aid from a variety of sources, including the United States, the World Bank, Ireland, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and Germany. Lesotho has nearly 6,000 kilometers of unpaved and modern all-weather roads. There is a short rail line (freight) linking Lesotho with South Africa that is owned and operated by South Africa. Lesotho is a member of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), in which tariffs have been eliminated on the trade of goods between other member countries Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Swaziland. Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, and South Africa also form a common currency and exchange control area known as the Common Monetary Area (CMA). The South African rand can be used interchangeably with the loti, the Lesotho currency (plural: maloti). One hundred lisente equal one loti. The loti is at par with the rand.

Tourism is a slow growing industry in Lesotho. A skiing resort recently opened in the high Maluti mountains is drawing tourist from South Africa.

The Afriski resort in the Maluti Mountains of Lesotho
The Afriski resort in the Maluti Mountains of Lesotho

Significant levels of child labour are found in Lesotho, and the country is in the process of formulating an Action Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (APEC). This is expected to be adopted in the period 2006-2007.


A house in Lesotho.
A house in Lesotho.
Malealea, situated in a remote part of Western Lesotho.
Malealea, situated in a remote part of Western Lesotho.

According to recent estimates, the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in Lesotho is about 29%, one of the highest rates in the world. The United Nations estimates that this rate will rise to 36% within the next 15 years, resulting in a sharp drop in life expectancy. According to the Lesotho Bureau of Statistics, in 2001 life expectancy was estimated at 48 for men and 56 for women. Recent statistics estimate that life expectancy has fallen to an average of about 37 years.

The government of Lesotho was initially slow to recognize the scale of the HIV/AIDS crisis, and its efforts to date in combating the spread of the disease have met with limited success. In 1999, the government finalized its Strategic Plan on HIV/AIDS, a diagram for addressing the education, prevention, counseling, and treatment needs of the populace. In late 2003, the government announced that it was forming a new National AIDS Commission to coordinate society-wide anti-AIDS activities. Also in 2003 the Government of Lesotho hosted a SADC Extraordinary Summit on HIV/AIDS.

Short of trained personnel and medical supplies, Lesotho is severely afflicted by HIV/AIDS. Many children have lost parents. Traditionally lavish funerals leave survivors with another burden.

In 2005/2006, programs for the distribution of anti-retrovirals have been initiated. For example, one such program is in Hlotse, Leribe at Motebang Hospital. However, such programs remain limited in resources and have relatively few participants.

The government of Lesotho has also started a proactive initiative called " know your status" to test every person in the country for HIV if the person wants to be tested. The testing program is being funded by the Clinton Foundation and aims to start in June of 2006. Bill Clinton and Microsoft chairman Bill Gates visited Lesotho in July 2006 to assess its fight against AIDS.

Dubbed " the two Bills" by the media, the two men visited the Mafeteng Hospital which is about 80 kilometres or 50 miles south of the capital, Maseru, to assess progress in public health endeavours funded by their respective foundations.

Foreign relations

The flag used by Lesotho until October 2006.
The flag used by Lesotho until October 2006.

Lesotho's geographic location makes it extremely vulnerable to political and economic developments in South Africa. It is a member of many regional economic organizations including the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Southern African Customs Union (SACU). Lesotho also is active in the United Nations, the African Union, the Nonaligned Movement, the Commonwealth, and many other international organizations. South Africa, the United States, Libya, Ireland (Consulate General), China, and the European Union all currently retain resident diplomatic missions in Lesotho. The British High Commission closed in 2005 and the UK is now represented in Lesotho by its High Commissioner resident in South Africa. The United Nations is represented by a resident mission as well, including UNDP, UNICEF, WHO, FAO, WFP, and UNAIDS.

Lesotho has historically maintained generally close ties with the United Kingdom (Wales in particular), Germany, the United States and other Western states. Although Lesotho decided in 1990 to break relations with the People's Republic of China (P.R.C.) and re-establish relations with Taiwan, it has since restored ties with the P.R.C. Lesotho also recognised Palestine as a state. In the past, it was a strong public supporter of the end of apartheid in South Africa and granted a number of South African refugees political asylum during the apartheid era.

A gorge in Lesotho.
A gorge in Lesotho.


Traditional musical instruments include lekolulo, a kind of flute used by herding boys, setolo-tolo, played by men using their mouth, and the women's stringed thomo.

The national anthem of Lesotho is "Lesotho Fatše La Bo-ntata Rona," which literally translates into "Lesotho, Land Of Our Fathers."

The Morija Arts & Cultural Festival is a prominent Sotho music festival. It is held annually in the historical town of Morija, where the first missionaries arrived in 1833.

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