Lesotho: Wikis


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Kingdom of Lesotho
Muso oa Lesotho
Flag Coat of arms
Motto"Khotso, Pula, Nala"  (Sesotho)
"Peace, Rain, Prosperity"
AnthemLesotho Fatse La Bontata Rona
(and largest city)
29°28′S 27°56′E / 29.467°S 27.933°E / -29.467; 27.933
Official language(s) Sesotho, English
Demonym Mosotho (singular), Basotho (plural)
Government Parliamentary system and Constitutional monarchy
 -  King Letsie III
 -  Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili
 -  from the United Kingdom October 4, 1966 
 -  Total 30,355 km2 (140th)
12,727 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) negligible
 -  2009 estimate 2,067,000[1] (146th)
 -  2004 census 2,031,348 
 -  Density 68.1/km2 (138th)
162.4/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $3.198 billion[2] 
 -  Per capita $1,304[2] 
GDP (nominal) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $1.618 billion[2] 
 -  Per capita $659[2] 
Gini (1995) 63.2 (high
HDI (2007) 0.514[3] (medium) (156th)
Currency Loti (LSL)
Time zone (UTC+2)
Drives on the left
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 /lɨˈsuːtuː/ ( listen)), officially the Kingdom of Lesotho, is a landlocked country and enclave—entirely surrounded by the Republic of South Africa. It is just over 30,000 km2 (11,583 sq mi) in size with an estimated population of almost 1,800,000. Its capital and largest city is Maseru. Lesotho is the southernmost landlocked country in the world. It is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The name "Lesotho" translates roughly into "the land of the people who speak Sesotho".[4] About 40% of the population live below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day.[5]



The earliest known inhabitants of the area were Khoisan hunter-gatherers. They were largely replaced by Wasja-speaking tribes during Bantu migrations. The Sotho-Tswana people colonized the general region of South Africa between the 3rd century and the 11th century

The present Lesotho (then called Basutoland) emerged as a single polity under the Great King Moshoeshoe I in 1822. Son of Mokhachane, a minor chief of the Bakoteli lineage, Moshoeshoe formed his own clan and became a chief around 1804. Between 1821 and 1823 he and his followers settled at the Butha-Buthe Mountain, joining with former adversaries in resistance against the Lifaqane associated with the reign of Shaka Zulu from 1818 to 1828.[citation needed]

Subsequent evolution of the state hinged on conflicts between British and Dutch colonists leaving the Cape Colony following its seizure from the French-occupied Dutch by the British in 1795, and subsequently associated with the Orange River Sovereignty and subsequent Orange Free State. Missionaries invited by Moshoeshoe I, Thomas Arbousset, Eugene Casalis and Constant Gosselin from the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society, placed at Morija, developed orthography and printed works in the Sotho language between 1837 and 1855. Casalis, acting as translator and providing advice on foreign affairs, helped to set up diplomatic channels and acquire guns for use against the encroaching Europeans and the Korana people.[citation needed]

Boer trekkers from the Cape Colony showed up on the western borders of Basutoland and claimed land rights, beginning with Jan de Winnaar, who settled in the Matlakeng area in May-June 1838. As more farmers were moving into the area they tried to colonise the land between the two rivers, even north of the Caledon, claiming that it had been abandoned by the Sotho people. Moshoeshoe subsequently signed a treaty with the British Governor of the Cape Colony, Sir George Thomas Napier that annexed the Orange River Sovereignty that many Boers had settled. These outraged Boers were suppressed in a brief skirmish in 1848. In 1851 a British force was defeated by the Sotho army at Kolonyama, touching off an embarrassing war for the British. After repulsing another British attack in 1852, Moshoeshoe sent an appeal to the British commander that settled the dispute diplomatically, then defeated the Tloka in 1853.[citation needed]

In 1854 the British pulled out of the region, and in 1858 Moshoeshoe fought a series of wars with the Boers in the Free State-Basotho War, losing a great portion of the western lowlands. The last war in 1867 ended when Moshoeshoe appealed to Queen Victoria, who agreed to make Basutoland a British protectorate in 1868. In 1869, the British signed a treaty at Aliwal with the Boers that defined the boundaries of Basutoland and later Lesotho, which by ceding the western territories effectively reduced Moshoeshoe's kingdom to half its previous size.[citation needed]

Following the cession in 1869, the British initially transferred functions from Moshoeshoe's capital in Thaba Bosiu to a police camp on the northwest border, Maseru, until administration of Basutoland was transferred to the Cape Colony in 1871. Moshoeshoe died on March 11, 1870, marking the end of the traditional era and the beginning of the colonial era, and was buried at Thaba Bosiu. During their rule between 1871 and 1884, Basutoland was treated similarly to territories that had been forcefully annexed, much to the chagrin of the Basotho.[6] This led to the Gun War in 1881.[7] In 1884, Basutoland was restored its status as a Crown colony, with Maseru again its capital, but remained under direct rule by a governor, though effective internal power was wielded by traditional chiefs.

Basutoland gained its independence from Britain and became the Kingdom of Lesotho in 1966.[8]

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 Tona Kholo (Sesotho translation of prime minister),[citation needed] and imprisoned the BCP leadership.

BCP began a rebellion and then received training in Libya for its Lesotho Liberation Army (LLA) under the pretense 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 guerrilla war with only a handful of old weapons. The main force was defeated in northern Lesotho and later guerrillas launched sporadic but usually ineffectual attacks. The campaign was severely compromised when BCP's leader, Ntsu Mokhehle, went 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 the family of Benjamin Masilo was attacked. A few days later, Edgar Mahlomola Motuba was taken from his home and murdered.

The BNP ruled from 1966 till January 1970. What later ensued was a "de facto" government led by Dr Leabua Jonathan until 1986 when a military coup forced it out of office. The Military Council that came to power granted executive powers to King Moshoeshoe II, who was until then a ceremonial monarch. But in 1987 the King was forced into exile after coming up with a six-page memorandum on how he wanted the Lesotho's constitution to be, which would have given him more executive powers had the military government agreed. His son was installed as King Letsie III.

The chairman of the military junta, Major General Justin Metsing Lekhanya, was ousted in 1991 and 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.

River Makhaleng Gorges in the Highlands of Lesotho, 2003.

In August 1994, Letsie III staged a military-backed coup that deposed the BCP government, after the BCP government refused to reinstate his father, Moshoeshoe II, according to Lesotho's constitution. The new government did not receive full international recognition. Member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) engaged in negotiations to reinstate the BCP government. One of the conditions Letsie III put forward for this was that his father should be re-installed as head of state. After protracted negotiations, the BCP government was reinstated and Letsie III abdicated in favor of his father in 1995, but he ascended the throne again when Moshoeshoe II died at the age of fifty-seven in a road accident, when his car plunged off a mountain road during the early hours of 15 January 1996. According to a government statement, Moshoeshoe had set out at 1 a.m. to visit his cattle at Matsieng and was returning to Maseru through the Maluti Mountains when his car left the road.[9]

In 1997, the ruling BCP split over leadership disputes. 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. Pakalitha Mosisili succeeded Mokhehle as party leader and the LCD won the general elections in 1998. Although the elections were 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, both in Lesotho and South Africa. While the Botswana Defence Force 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 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. But for the first time, 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.


The Lesotho Government is a parliamentary or constitutional monarchy. The Prime Minister, Pakalitha Bethuel 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 prohibited 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 62 seats. The All Basotho Convention (ABC), a party formed shortly before the poll under the leadership of former foreign minister Tom Thabane, is the main opposition. The Basotho National Party (BNP), the Alliance of Congress Parties (ACP) and the newly formed Basotho Batho Democratic Party (BBDP) and the Basotho Democratic National Party (BDNP) Lesotho are among the other five opposition parties represented.

The ABC has brought a dramatic change in the Lesotho's politics, because of its having won 17, mainly urban, seats out of 80 Constituency seats, only a few months after it was formed in September 2006. Of the 40 Proportional Representation (PR) seats, the National Independent Party (NIP), a parliamentary ally of the ruling party, has the highest number of seats at 21. The Lesotho Workers Party has the next highest number of proportional seats with 10. The BNP is the opposition party with the biggest loss in the February 2007 election with its representation reduced from 21 to 3 seats. A total of 12 political parties are represented in the 120-member parliament.

The upper house of parliament, called the Senate, is composed of twenty-two principal chiefs whose membership is hereditary, and eleven appointees of the king, acting on the advice of the prime minister.

The constitution provides for an independent judicial system, made up of the High Court, the Court of Appeal, 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, freedom of association, freedom of the press, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of religion.

Lesotho was ranked 12th out of 48 sub-Saharan African countries in the 2008 Ibrahim Index of African Governance.[10]


Districts of Lesotho

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

The districts are further subdivided into 80 constituencies, which consists of 129 local community councils.


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

Lesotho covers 30,355 km2 (11,720 sq mi). It is the only independent state in the world that lies entirely above 1,400 metres (4,593 ft) in elevation. Its lowest point of 1,400 metres (4,593 ft) is thus the highest in the world. Over 80% of the country lies above 1,800 metres (5,906 ft). Lesotho is also landlocked and is entirely contained within the country of South Africa.



Because of its altitude, Lesotho remains cooler throughout the year than other regions at the same latitude. Most of the rain falls as summer thunderstorms. Maseru and surrounding lowlands often reach 30 °C (86 °F) in summer. Winters can be cold with the lowlands getting down to −7 °C (19.4 °F) and the highlands to −18 °C (−0.4 °F) at times. Snow is common in the highlands between May and September; the higher peaks can experience snowfalls year-round.


Lesotho's economy is based on diamonds exported all over the world and water sold to South Africa, manufacturing, agriculture, livestock, and to some extent the earnings of laborers employed in South Africa. Lesotho also exports wool, mohair, clothing, and footwear. One of Levi's jeans manufacturing facilities is located there. Also in Lesotho is one of Russell Athletic plants[citation needed]. 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 who remain 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.[citation needed]

The Afriski resort in the Maluti Mountains of Lesotho.

Water and diamonds are Lesotho's significant natural resources.[citation needed] It is utilized through the 21-year, multi-billion-dollar Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP), which began in 1986.[11] The LHWP is designed to capture, store, and transfer water from the Orange River system 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 $40 million (R300 million or 300 million Maloti) [12] 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 US 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.[citation needed]

The official currency is the loti (plural: maloti), but can be used interchangeably with the South African rand. Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, and South Africa also form a common currency and exchange control area known as the Common Monetary Area (CMA). The loti is at par with the rand, while one hundred lisente equal one loti.

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 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.

Social Issues

Significant levels of child labor exist in Lesotho, and the country is in the process of formulating an Action Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (APEC).


Mosotho horseman.


Lesotho has a population of approximately 1.881 million, according to 2006 Census.[13][citation needed] The population distribution of Lesotho is 25 percent urban and 75 percent rural. However, it is estimated that annual increase of urban population is 3.5%.[14] Population density is lower in the highlands than in the western lowlands. Although the majority of the population—60.2 percent—is between 15 and 64 years of age, Lesotho has a substantial youth population numbering around 34.8 percent.[14] The annual population growth rate is 0.116%.[14]

Ethnic groups and languages

Lesotho's ethno-linguistic structure consists almost entirely of the Basotho, a Bantu-speaking people: an estimate of 99.7% of the people identify as Basotho.[14] Other ethnic groups include Europeans, numbering in the thousands, and an estimated 5,000 Chinese.[15] Basotho subgroups include the Bakuena (Kuena), Batloung (the Tlou), Baphuthi (the Phuti), Bafokeng, Bataung (the Tau), Batšoeneng (the tšoene), Matebele, etc. Sesotho. The main language, Sesotho, is also the first official and administrative language, and it is what Basotho speak on an ordinary basis. English is the other official and administrative language.


The population of Lesotho is estimated to be around 90 percent Christian.[16] Roman Catholics, the largest religious group, make up around 45 percent of the population.[16] Evangelicals comprise 26 percent of the population, and Anglican and other Christian groups an additional 19 percent.[16] Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Baha'i, and members of traditional indigenous religions comprise the remaining 10 percent of the population.[16]

Education and literacy

Basotho schoolboy

An estimated 85 percent of the population 15 and over was literate, according to recent estimates. As such, Lesotho boasts one of the highest literacy rates in Africa.[14] Contrary to most countries, in Lesotho female literacy (94.5%) is higher than male literacy. According to a study by the Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality in 2000, 37 percent of grade 6 pupils in Lesotho (average age 14 years) are at or above reading level 4, "Reading for Meaning".[17] A pupil at this level of literacy can read ahead or backwards through various parts of text to link and interpret information. Although education is not compulsory, the Government of Lesotho is incrementally implementing a program for free primary education.[18]

Twinning The Kingdoms Twinning The Kingdoms (TTK) works to support the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) in Lesotho. [19] As part of their work, Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne (PCD), Dingle, Ireland, is linked with Morate English Medium High School (MEMHS), Kolonyama since 2006; through this cultural exchange students and teachers have the opportunity to develop friendships through mutual learning, collaboration on project work and appreciation of cultural diversity. As a result of the linking experience students have been enabled to form an understanding of their interdependent relationships within a global context.[20]


Infant mortality is at about 8.3 %.[21] There are 5 physicians per 100,000 persons.[22]


Lesotho is severely afflicted by HIV/AIDS. According to recent estimates, the prevalence is about 23.2%, one of the highest in the world.[23] In urban areas, about 50% of women under 40 have HIV. Lesotho Bureau of Statistics stated that in 2001 life expectancy was estimated at 48 years for men and 56 for women.[citation needed] Recent statistics estimate about 37 years.[citation needed] According to the CIA's World Factbook, the average life expectancy is 41.18 for men and 39.54 for women.[14]

The government of Lesotho was initially slow to recognize the scale of the crisis, and its efforts to date in combating the spread of the disease have had 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 hosted a SADC Extraordinary Summit on HIV/AIDS.[citation needed]

In 2005, programs for the distribution of anti-retrovirals (ARVs) were initiated. One such program is in Hlotse, Leribe at Tsepong Clinic which is part of Motebang Hospital. However, such programs remain limited in resources and have relatively few participants.[citation needed]

The government has started a proactive program called "Know your status" to test everyone in the country who wants to be tested for HIV. The program is funded by the Clinton Foundation and started in June 2006. Bill Clinton and Microsoft chairman Bill Gates visited Lesotho in July 2006 to assess its fight against AIDS.[citation needed]

The Apparel Lesotho Alliance to Fight AIDS (ALAFA) is an industry-wide program providing prevention and treatment, including ARVs when these are necessary, for the 46,000 mainly women workers in the Lesotho apparel industry. It was launched in May 2006. The program is helping to combat two of the key drivers of the HIV/AIDS epidemic: poverty and gender inequality. Surveys within the industry by ALAFA show that 43% of employers have HIV.[citation needed]

Foreign relations

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),[24] and the Southern African Customs Union (SACU).[25] It is also active in the United Nations (UN), the African Union, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Commonwealth, and many other international organizations.[citation needed]

His Excellency, Prince Seeiso Hirohr Seeiso, is the present High Commissioner of the Kingdom of Lesotho to the Court of St. James's. The UN is represented by a resident mission as well, including UNDP, UNICEF, WHO, FAO, WFP, and UNAIDS.

Historically, Lesotho has maintained generally close ties with Ireland.[26]

Lesotho also has maintained ties with the United Kingdom (Wales in particular), Germany, the United States and other Western states. Although in 1990 it broke relations with the People's Republic of China (PRC) and re-established relations with the Republic of China (Taiwan), it later restored ties with the PRC.

Lesotho also recognizes the State of Palestine.[27]

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.[27]


Lesotho does not have a single code containing its laws; it draws them from a variety of sources including: Constitution, Legislation, Common Law, Judicial precedent, Customary Law, and Authoritative texts.[1]

The Constitution of Lesotho came into force after the publication of the Commencement Order. Constitutionally, legislation refers to laws that have been passed by both houses of parliament and have been assented to by the King (section 78(1)). Subordinate legislation refers to laws passed by other bodies to which parliament has by virtue of section 70(2) of the Constitution validly delegated such legislative powers. These include government gazettes, ministerial orders, ministerial regulations and municipal bye-laws.

Although Lesotho shares with South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, Namibia and Zimbabwe a mixed general legal system which resulted from the interaction between the Roman-Dutch Civilian law and the English Common Law, its general law operates independently. Lesotho also applies the common law, which refers to unwritten law or law from non-statutory sources, but excludes customary law. Decisions from South African courts are only persuasive, and courts refer to them in formulating their decisions. Decisions from similar jurisdictions can also be cited for their persuasive value. Magistrates’ courts decisions do not become precedent since these are lower courts. They are however bound by decisions of the High Court and the Court of Appeal. At the apex of the Lesotho justice system is the Court of Appeal, which is the final appellate forum on all matters. It has a supervisory and review jurisdiction over all the courts of Lesotho.

Lesotho has a dual legal system consisting of customary and general laws operating side by side. Customary law is made up of the customs of the Basotho, written and codified in the Laws of Lerotholi whereas general law consists of Roman Dutch Law imported from the Cape and the Lesotho statutes. The codification of customary law came about after a council was appointed in 1903 to advise the British Resident Commissioner on what was best for the Basotho in terms of laws that would govern them. Until this time, the Basotho customs and laws were passed down from generation to generation through oral tradition. The council was then given the task of codifying them, came up with the Laws of Lerotholi which are applied by customary courts today (local courts). Written works of eminent authors have persuasive value in the courts of Lesotho. These include writings of the old authorities as well as contemporary writers from similar jurisdictions


Boy wrapped in a Basotho blanket.

Traditional musical instruments include lekolulo, a kind of flute used by herding boys, setolo-tolo, played by men using their mouth, and the woman'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 traditional style of housing in Lesotho is called a rondavel.

Attire revolves around the Basotho blanket, a thick covering made primarily of wool. The blankets are ubiquitous throughout the country during all seasons.

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

See also

Southern Sotho language edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
English language edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


  1. ^ Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division (2009) (.PDF). World Population Prospects, Table A.1. 2008 revision. United Nations. http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/wpp2008/wpp2008_text_tables.pdf. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Lesotho". International Monetary Fund. http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2009/02/weodata/weorept.aspx?sy=2006&ey=2009&scsm=1&ssd=1&sort=country&ds=.&br=1&c=666&s=NGDPD%2CNGDPDPC%2CPPPGDP%2CPPPPC%2CLP&grp=0&a=&pr.x=35&pr.y=5. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  3. ^ Human Development Report 2009. The United Nations. Retrieved 15 October 2009
  4. ^ Itano, Nicole (2007). No Place Left to Bury the Dead. Simon and Schuster. pp. 314. 
  5. ^ Human Development Indices, Table 3: Human and income poverty, p. 35. Retrieved on 1 June 2009
  6. ^ James S. Olson, Robert S. Shadle (ed.) (1996). Historical Dictionary of the British Empire. Greenwood Press. pp. 118. ISBN 0-313-27917-9. 
  7. ^ Sam Romaya, Alison Brown (April 1999). "City profile: Maseru, Lesotho". Cities 16 (2): 123–133. doi:10.1016/S0264-2751(98)00046-8. 
  8. ^ Karen Tranberg Hansen, Mariken Vaa (2004). Reconsidering Informality: Perspectives from Urban Africa. Nordic African Institute. pp. 180. ISBN 9171065180. 
  9. ^ King of Tiny Land Circled by South Africa Dies in Car Plunge, by Donald G. McNeil Jr in The New York Times, 16 January 1996 (accessed 3 November 2007)
  10. ^ http://moibrahimfoundation.org
  11. ^ Lesotho Highlands Water Project: The Treaty
  12. ^ LHWP Water Sales
  13. ^ Bureau of Statistics, Ministry of Finance and Development Planning. August 2007. 2006 Lesotho Census of Population and Housing: Preliminary Results Report. Maseru: BoS. page 2, Table 2.1 & page 14, Table A4.)
  14. ^ a b c d e f CIA. "CIA - The World Factbook - Lesotho". https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/lt.html. Retrieved 2008-04-15. 
  15. ^ "LESOTHO: Anti-Chinese resentment flares". IRIN Africa. January 24, 2008.
  16. ^ a b c d "International Religious Freedom Report 2007: Lesotho". United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. 2007-09-14. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2007/90104.htm. Retrieved 2008-04-15. 
  17. ^ The SACMEQ II Project in Lesotho: A Study of the Conditions of Schooling and the Quality of Education. Harare: SACMEQ.
  18. ^ Lesotho Ministry of Education and Training - Basic Education
  19. ^ http://www.twinningkingdoms.ie/ourmission.htm
  20. ^ http://www.twinningkingdoms.ie/projectsinireland.htm
  21. ^ http://researchafrica.rti.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.country_view&country_id=28
  22. ^ http://doctorswithoutborders.org/events/symposiums/2008-aids-iac/concerns/shortage.cfm
  23. ^ CIA world factbook: HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate
  24. ^ Lesotho Country profile on the Southern African Development Community website
  25. ^ Southern African Customs Union website
  26. ^ http://www.irishaid.gov.ie/lesotho.asp
  27. ^ a b Lesotho US State department

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Quick Facts
Capital Maseru
Government Parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Currency loti (LSL); South African rand (ZAR)
Area total: 30,355 km2
water: 0 km2
land: 30,355 km2
Population 2,022,331 (July 2006 est.)
Language Sesotho (southern Sotho) (official), English (official), Zulu, Xhosa
Religion Christian 80%, indigenous beliefs 20%
Electricity 230V
Calling Code 266
Internet TLD .ls
Time Zone UTC +1

Lesotho [1] is a country in Southern Africa. Known as the Kingdom in the Sky because of its lofty altitude - it has the highest lowest point of any country in the world (1400m) and is the only country to be entirely above 1000m! Lesotho is totally surrounded by South Africa and is a fantastic adventure holiday destination.



Originally the Sotho-Tswana people lived in what is now Free State in neighbouring South Africa. They were a farming people, and when the Zulus started attacking villages and the Voortrekkers started encroaching on their land, they fled up into the Lesotho mountains. Here, continuous attacks from the Zulus forced local tribes to join together for protection, and by 1824, King Moeshoeshoe had established himself as king and Thaba Bosiu as his mountain fortress.

In 1903, Moeshoeshoe allied himself with the British Cape Colony government in a bid to protect the Basotho from the Boer's rapidly increasing presence in the area. Much fighting followed, forcing Moeshoeshoe to go straight to the imperial government of the British, and in 1868, Basotholand (as it was then called) became a protectorate of the British Empire. It was granted independence from the British Empire on October 4th 1966.


The Kingdom of Lesotho was formed through the pursuit of peace, and this peaceful nature still exists in the Basotho. They are a friendly and welcoming people and do not have the aggressive history some of the peoples of neighbouring countries have. People are especially grateful to Brits, and the older generation will come up to a Brit and tell them how much they thank them for saving them from apartheid!

Lesotho countryside
Lesotho countryside


Lesotho has 300 days of sunshine. The rainy season extends from October to April in which Lesotho gets 70mm of rainfall, mostly during severe thunderstorms. Extensive snow falls are possible in winter but may occur in any month on the high mountains. Nightime temperatures go below freezing in winter (May - September)- and houses do not feature central heating), so bring a jacket.

  • Independence Day (4th October) celebrates the day that Lesotho achieved independence from the British Empire.
  • Moshoeshoe Day (14th March) celebrates the life of the founding father of the country. In Maseru, the procession goes from the Palace all the way to the Sotho Stadium, and involves many people dressed up in Lesotho's vibrant and colourful traditional dress - usually comprising blankets and sticks and if you're lucky, the cat hat! Women involved in the parade will be carrying huge bundles of sticks, as they traditionally would do, whilst the men will either be doing traditional dances, riding horses, or herding bulls along the road! At the stadium, after the procession has arrived, there are military and police parades, which aren't nearly so enjoyable.
Map of Lesotho
Map of Lesotho
  • Katse - Pony-trekking and the impressive Katse Dam. This stunning 185m dam wall is part of a larger water scheme to sell water to South Africa's Gauteng province and produce electricity for Lesotho. The result is a huge man made reservoir which stores the water that is gravity-fed to South Africa. The beauty of this award-winning feat of engineering is eclipsed, however, by the surrounding mountains and rural countryside.
  • Malealea - Pony-trekking
  • Maputsoe
  • Mohale's Hoek
  • Morija - Museum, dinosaur footprints
  • Oxbow - Skiing in Africa
  • Qacha's Nek
  • Sani Pass - Home to the highest pub in Africa and amazing views
  • Semonkong - Maletsunyane Falls - Nestled in the Lesotho highlands is Southern Africa's highest single drop waterfall. Above the waterfall, the Maletsunyane River in itself is nothing spectacular, which makes the discovery of the falls even more amazing! The scramble down the sides of the gorge is hard, but fairly safe and the noise and spray at the bottom by the pool is awe inspiring! Because no sun shines on the bottom, there is often snow down there, even in summer! If you're very adventurous you could also do the world's highest commercial abseil off the 200m high cliff!
  • Thaba Bosiu - The mountain stronghold where the great warrior and diplomat King Moeshoeshoe the Great established the Kingdom of Lesotho, fighting off wave after wave of attacks by white settlers and hostile African armies. Still today, the Kings and Queens of Lesotho are buried here.
  • Thaba-Tseka

Get in


Citizens of the following countries will be granted a free entry permit, valid for 30 days: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Spain, Switzerland, U.S.A

Your passport needs to be valid for another six months and you need at least two blank pages. The proof of a return or onward ticket or your future travel plans might be asked, but this should not be a problem.

By plane

Moshoeshoe Airport is located 18km from Maseru. South African Airways [2] and Airlink [3] operate daily flights between Maseru and Johannesburg, typically costing around 1400 ZAR. Luggage is lost very regularly and there is no lost luggage reporting system. You should arrange taxi pick-up in advance as often there are no taxis at the airport. Taxis charge around 50-80 ZAR.

Lesotho from the air
Lesotho from the air

By train

There is no train line within Lesotho, but the South African railway line Bloemfontein Bohlokong (freight only) runs along the northwestern Lesotho border, with a stop in Meqheleng.

By car

You will be coming from South Africa when entering by car. The major border posts are Caledonspoort, Ficksburg Bridge, Makhaleng Bridge, Maseru Bridge, Ngoangoma Gate, Peka Bridge, Qacha's Nek, Ramatseliso's Gate, Sani Pass, Sephaphos Gate, Tele Bridge and Van Rooyen's Gate. Please note that some of the border posts can only be accessed by four-wheel driven cars, and only Maseru Bridge and Ficksburg Bridge are open 24 hours; other borders can close as early as 4PM.

The main roads in Lesotho are similar to minor roads in Europe - they are sealed, and surprisingly free of potholes. The A1 road (aka 'Main North') is tarred from Maseru to Mokhotlong, and the A2 (aka 'Main South') is tarred from Maseru to Qacha's Nek. The roads to Roma, Mohale Dam and Katse Dam are also tarred. For the visitor, the only unsealed roads you are likely to use are the road to Semonkong (4x4 only most of the year although some drive in 2x4 hire cars) and the last 20km to Malealea, which is easy in a saloon. Note that the road running east-west to Thaba Tseka is unsealed and in terrible condition; it is always quicker to take the A1 to get to Katse, Thaba Tseka and Sani Pass.

If setting off in to the mountains, check your car over before the trip (top up the oil, pump the spare tyre etc). There are some steep climbs which require 2nd or even 1st gear to get up - so don't attempt to drive to Qacha's Nek with 5 people squeezed into a hired 1.3 litre CitiGolf!

If in doubt, please ask locals if the road you are going to take is okay, especially during wintertime. The truth is that if you keep to the main roads you are likely to drive on a road smoother than Eastern Free State (RSA) roads!

When taking a rented car, be sure to get permission from the rental company to take the car into Lesotho. You will need to show written permission from the rental company at border control.

Finally, petrol can be a problem - it is best to fill the tank in Maseru or in South Africa. Outside Maseru, unleaded can be very hard to find, and even LRP and diesel can be in short supply.

By bus

Vaal-Maseru [[4]] runs a coach service betweenJohannesburg and Maseru.

Minibuses run pretty much anywhere from the Maseru Bridge border, but you must get there early in the morning (7am) as there may be only 1 bus a day.

By Hitchhiking

If travelling in from Bloemfontein you could hitch-hike easily enough (look out for Lesotho number plates). If going from Maseru to Bloemfontein, hanging around the border (especially on a Saturday morning) should get you a lift (offer some money).

Get around

By Regular Taxi

Regular taxis (you phone, they pick you up) and 4+1s - have a yellow stripe down the side and squeeze in 4 passengers. Always check the cost of a taxi before you get in.

Phone +0026662745199 for Khosana at Comfort Taxis

By Minibus Taxi

As with most of Africa the minibus 'taxi' (aka combi / Toyota Hiace) is the transport of the people.

Be sure you are clear on where the minibus is going (there should be a sign in the front windscreen), you'll be asked for money after a minute or two, with money being passed down the minibus. Try to get the front seat by the driver for more leg room. Prices are fixed by the government. There is a risk of overcharging foreigners - ask the other passengers if you are not sure of the price. Be warned, the reason the Minibus taxis are so cheap is because of the way they fit so many people in! Don't be surprised to see kids sitting on laps four or five high, or to told to have large amounts of luggage on your lap or wedged in around you. The Minibus taxis tend to be poorly maintained and are not insured. However, very few accidents involving taxis occur.

Intercity travel by taxi will cost no more than 50 LSL for a single way ticket, and inner city minibus taxi rides will cost you around 2.50 LSL (4+1s will cost you 20 LSL for the whole car, no matter how many are with you, provided its within a city.)

Always check the cost of a taxi before you get in.

Finding a taxi

Upon arrival in one of the main towns, you will notice that all the minibuses are hooting their horns, which is to signal that they have space for more passengers. To flag one down, just wave to a taxi as it approaches, the conductor (who will be leaning out of the window on the kerbside of the van) will usually be shouting the destination of the taxi. If you are not sure it will be going where you want to go, ask before you get on!

In Maseru, there is a place called Stoppo on Moeshoeshoe Road, near to the Shoprite by The Circle / Cathedral. This is where all the minibus taxis leave from, and if you want a taxi out of town, you should head here. However, it is a very busy and bustling place, heaving with people, so it is often easier to pick up a taxi a bit before you reach the actual Stoppo, a good place is the layby just by the pedestrian bridge. This is a far safer place for a tourist to pick up a taxi as pickpocketings are quite common in Stoppo.

By car

It is also possible to hire a car and travel around. The Sun hotels in Maseru both have hire car places, as does the airport. If you hire your car in South Africa (probably cheaper than hiring in Lesotho) be sure to get permission to take the car across into Lesotho (the hire car insurance may not cover Lesotho).

But it's nowhere near as fun as getting up close to the locals and chatting with them!

You don't need a 4x4 to see the main sights in Lesotho - for the average visitor only the road to Semonkong will need a 4x4. The road is tarred to Mokhotlong (via Leribe) and is now tarred all the way to Qacha's Nek going south from Maseru. In the towns some side roads are unsealed but you can bump along in a saloon easily enough - If heading off in to the mountains on unsealed roads (eg to the Kao diamond mine) then a 4x4 is a must. The same goes for Thaba Tseka and going up or down the Sani pass.

When driving it's not advisable to stop at junctions or traffic lights at night - there is a very small chance of something nasty happening.

  • Mission Aviation Fellowship, 2232 5699, [5]. Offers flights to NGOs operating in Lesotho and also offers charter flights from Moeshoeshoe I airport in Maseru if you want to reach an inaccessible part of the country  edit


The official languages are Sesotho and English.

Most people in the larger towns or tourist attractions speak English to a reasonable standard and a few words of Afrikaans; however, outside these areas, these languages will not be understood.

The Lesotho Highlands
The Lesotho Highlands
  • Pony-Trekking at either Malealea, in Katse, or at the Basotho Pony-Trekking Centre — whether your a seasoned pro at horse riding or a complete novice, pony-trekking is an extremely enjoyable way to see the Lesotho countryside! These organized tours give you access to parts of the country which you wouldn't see from your car. The exceptionally sure-footed Basotho Pony can take you through far-off villages and atop daunting mountains.
  • Hiking in the Highlands. Contact the Department of Tourism [6], who will find you a guide, and then fly into a completely cut off village and hike your way out, staying in remote villages over night. You can also purchase 1:25,000 topographical maps for about 25LSL from the office of Lands, Surveys, and Physical Planning in downtown Maseru and do this yourself (recommeded only for experienced hikers).
  • '''Enduro Motorcycle Tours''', [7]. Motorcycle Tours – Guided enduro, off-road and dirt bike tours, day rides and trainings. Enduro bike rental or bring your own bike and experience some of the rural parts of the region. Man, machine and nature = adventure.  edit


Lesotho's currency, the Loti (LSL) (plural Maloti), is fixed at a 1:1 ratio with the South African Rand (ZAR). South African currency is accepted everywhere - there is no need to change money. However you will get Maloti in change (unless you ask) which is very difficult to unload in South Africa.

There are ATMs at banks in most towns, although you will not find them elsewhere. Most banks will change travellers cheques for you, but it can be a very, very lengthy process if they are in any other currency apart from ZAR. Credit cards will be accepted in Shoprite and the main hotels, but not elsewhere. Your cashcard from home may work in some Maseru cash machines (FNB or Standard Bank) but best to get cash out in South Africa beforehand.

Restaurants outside of Maseru (and most in Maseru) will probably not accept credit card as a means of payment.

There are several Western style supermarkets in Maseru, which are good for stocking up on supplies in before heading elsewhere in the country.

If you're after locally made goods and crafts, your best bet is to give Maseru a miss, and head to TY or Hlotse, where the markets are far better and cheaper. You can buy traditional Basotho hats, sticks, rugs and various other curios.


There are many Western style restaurants in Maseru. For a more traditional meal, why not befriend some locals and see what they cook you?!


Maluti beer is superb.

  • Sani Top Chalet. Features the highest pub in Africa. Maluti beer: R15.  edit


Lesotho hosts dozens of hotels, lodges and guesthouses. A full list can be found of the Lesotho Tourism Development Corporations website. The list below are the most tourism oriented and are pleasant places to stay. Other accommodation tends to be more functional and are OK to rest overnight and have a simple meal, but are unlikely to offer good service, nor any recreational activities.

  • Semonkong Lodge situated on the Maletsunyane river and just one hour's walk from Maletsunyane Falls, offers accommodations, good food, horse treks, abseiling at the Falls.
  • Malealea has a lodge and pony trekking centre which offers good accommodation, foot or horse treks and 4x4 excursions.
  • Mohale has the Orion Mohale Lodge [10]
  • Trading Post Lodge, [11]. Small lodge in the university town of Roma  edit
  • Ramabanta lodge, [12]. On the way to Semonkong - nice lodge, with camping facilities  edit
  • Maliba Mountain Lodge, [13]. New luxury lodge based in the Tsehlanyane National Park  edit
  • Sani Top Chalet, [14]. Located at the top of the Sani pass, popular with South African day-trippers  edit
  • Afriski, [15]. Stay in an imported alpine ski lodge.  edit
  • Letloepe Lodge, [16]. Probably the nicest place in Qacha's Nek  edit
  • In rural areas, Catholic and Protestant missions will often rent rooms to travellers.


For current happenings in Lesotho the weekly Public Eye [17] newspaper is a good source of info.

Stay safe

Lesotho is far safer than neighbouring South Africa. However it is risky to walk in Maseru alone. [18][19]

As with pretty much everywhere else in the world you may find friendly chats with locals turn in to veiled requests for money - stick to your principles and only give to registered charities.

At night time it is the norm to drive through red lights - this is more just to speed up your journey (the police won't care) but also a precaution against carjackings.

Lesotho has a history as a very safe, peaceful and welcoming country...

Stay healthy

The HIV/AIDS incidence rate in Lesotho is the 3rd highest in the world at around 25% or 1 in 4 people infected. Even more worrying is the prevalence rate is around 50 percent for women in urban areas under 40.

Consult a doctor as to which vaccinations you will require, but they will most likely include Hep A, Hep B, and Typhoid. If you are staying in rural areas for a long time then a rabies shot would be a good idea.Tropical diseases such as Malaria, Yellow fever and Bilharzia are not present in Lesotho.

It is a very good idea to carry some sterile needles and dressing in your first aid kit - the hospitals throughout Lesotho are not of a very high standard.

If you do have any serious health problems while in Lesotho, get in contact with your country's embassy either in Maseru, or in most cases, in Pretoria in South Africa, as there are very good hospitals across the border in SA for those who can afford to use them.

Lesotho is at a very high altitude, and the air is very thin especially in the Highlands, be warned that you may suffer from altitude sickness when you first arrive. Drink a lot of water and keep covered up, skin burns quickly in the thin mountain air. It gets very hot in the sun in the summer!

The water in Lesotho is not clean and should not be drunk untreated. Be warned about street vendors who sell fizzy drinks as these are usually in unclean reused glass bottles.

Pack moisturizer! Lesotho's air is very dry and everyone will suffer from dry skin!


Try and learn a few Sesotho words before travelling to Lesotho! The locals really appreciate a foreigner who has made the effort to learn their language! Always refer to an elder person, or a person of higher social standing as N'tate (male) or M'e (female)

Always respond to people, it is very offensive to ignore someone who greets you! As a foreigner, locals will be keen to say hello and ask you what you're up to in their country!

Never get angry at anyone, in the Basotho culture, people never show frustration towards others, and if you do, then you can easily really offend someone (you will almost certainly get frustrated when dealing with Lesotho officialdom, always keep your cool no matter how much buffoonery you are subjected to!). To show respect when giving and receiving items, use both hands. Also show a respect for food - don't throw it around, or eat whilst walking.


In Maseru, there are several internet cafes, although fairly cheap (usually 0.20-0.50 ZAR per min) they are pretty slow at best.

The cellphone network is OK in the towns, but pretty poor out in the contryside. The only British cell phone network that works is Vodafone. Unsure about other simcards. There are two mobile operators in Lesotho, Vodacom [20] and Econet Ezicel [21]. Vodacom has the widest coverage outside the towns, but is the (more) oversubscribed, and hence the less reliable. You can buy a Vodacom or Ezicel Buddie pay as you go sim card for under R50 in Maseru - worthwhile if you are staying for a while. Cellphones are available for hire in Maseru. Lesotho uses GSM900.

Coverage maps

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Proper noun




  1. A country in Southern Africa. Official name: Kingdom of Lesotho.


See also



Proper noun

Lesotho n.

  1. Lesotho


Proper noun

Lesotho n.

  1. Lesotho


Finnish Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia fi

Proper noun


  1. Lesotho


Derived terms

  • lesotholainen


German Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia de

Proper noun

Lesotho n.

  1. Lesotho

Derived terms

  • Lesother
  • Lesotherin
  • lesothisch


Italian Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia it

Proper noun

Lesotho m.

  1. Lesotho

Derived terms


Proper noun


  1. Lesotho

Related terms



  • IPA: /lɛˈsɔtɔ/

Proper noun

Lesotho n.

  1. Lesotho


Proper noun


  1. Lesotho


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