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Muso oa Lesotho
(Government of Lesotho)
(In Detail) (In Detail)
National motto: Khotso, Pula, Nala; Peace, Rain, Prosperity
Languages Sesotho (southern Sotho), English (official), Zulu, Xhosa
Capital and largest city Maseru
Capital's coordinates 29°18′S 27°28′E
Monarch HM The King of Lesotho, Letsie III
Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili
- Total
- % water
Ranked 137th
30,355 km²
- Total (2004)
- Density
Ranked 143rd
- Total ( Year)
- GDP/head
Ranked 147th
.106 billion
HDI (2003) 0.497 ( 149th) – low
Currency Ma loti ( LSL)
Time zone UTC +2
Establishment 1824
National anthem Lesotho Fatse La Bontata Rona
Internet TLD .ls
Calling Code 266
The Kingdom of Lesotho (Lesotho) is a southern African country. It 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 Le-sotho roughly translates into "the land of the people who speak Sotho".

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Foreign relations

History - Contents

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 a Paramount chief in 1822; it was recognized by Britain on 13 December 1843. On 12 March 1868 it became the British Protectorate Basutoland (already so called after its defining main ethnic and linguistic group, the Sotho people; Ba- and Le- are prefixes in Bantu languages); 11 August 1871 - 18 March 1884 it was annexed to the British Cape Colony (South Africa) as Basutoland territory. On 18 March 1884 Basutoland re-emerged as a separate colony, as one of 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 hismelf Tono Kholo (Sesotho translation of prime minister), and imprisoned the BCP leadership.The BCP began a rebellion in January 1974 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. 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 guerrilla war with a handful of old weapons. The main force was defeated in northern Lesotho and thereafter guerillas launched sporadic but usually ineffectual attacks. The campaign was severely compromised when Ntsu Mokhehle, the BCP leader, went over to Pretoria.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 favor 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 1998. 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 Mohales 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 there be opposition in the National Assembly. The new system retained the existing 80 elected Assembly seats, but added 40 seats to be filled on a proportional basis. Elections were held under this new system in May 2002, and the LCD won again, gaining 54% of the vote. For the first time, however, opposition political parties won significant numbers of seats, and despite some irregularities and threats of violence from Major General Lekhanya, Lesotho experienced its first peaceful election. Nine opposition parties now hold all 40 of the proportional seats, with the BNP having the largest share (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.

Politics - Contents

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.

Districts - Contents

For administrative purposes, Lesotho is divided into 10 districts, each headed by a district secretary. Each district has a capital known as a camptown.
  • 1 Berea
  • 2 Butha-Buthe
  • 3 Leribe
  • 4 Mafeteng
  • 5 Maseru
  • 6 Mohale's Hoek
  • 7 Mokhotlong
  • 8 Qacha's Nek
  • 9 Quthing
  • 10 Thaba-Tseka

Geography - Contents

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 metres in elevation. Its lowest point is 1,400 m, and over 80% of the country lies above 1,800 m.
Map of Lesotho
Map of Lesotho

Economy - Contents

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, and mohair. Lesotho is geographically surrounded by South 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 30-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 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 0 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.
Malealea Village in the Highlands of Lesotho
Malealea Village in the Highlands of Lesotho
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 totally 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.
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

HIV/AIDS - Contents

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 December 2005 The American-born Trinidad & Tobago Cricket Player Jeff Chemerinsky played in a charity match which raised money for the Lesotho AIDS Epidemic.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.

Defence - Contents

The security force is composed of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF--estimated 3,500 personnel) and the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS). The LDF consists of an army, an air wing, and a paramilitary wing. The LDF answers to the Prime Minister (who is the Minister of Defence and National Security and also the Minister of Public Service), while the Lesotho Mounted Police Service reports to the Minister of Home Affairs. There also is a National Security Service (NSS), Intelligence, which is directly accountable to the Prime Minister. Relations between the police and the army have occasionally been tense, and in 1997 the army was called upon to put down a serious police mutiny.

Foreign relations - Contents

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. In addition to the United States, South Africa, China, the United Kingdom, Libya, Ireland (Consulate General), and the European Union, all currently retain resident diplomatic missions in Lesotho. 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 States, the United Kingdom (Wales in particular), Germany, 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 recognized Palestine as a state, 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
Snow on a Lesotho road
Snow on a Lesotho road

Demographics - Contents

More than 99% of Lesotho's population is ethnically Basotho; other ethnic groups include Europeans and Asians. The country's population is 80% Christian, the majority of whom are Roman Catholic. Other religions are Islam, Hindu, and indigenous beliefs. Sesotho and English are official languages, and other languages spoken include Zulu and Xhosa.

Culture - Contents

  • Music of Lesotho
  • List of writers from Lesotho
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