Lesotho


Figure 1.--Livestock husbandry is a mainstay of Lesotho's economy. This 1970 photograph shows Lesotho shepard boys having a "sword" fight with sticks. They used one stick as a shield and the other to actually fight.

Lesotho is a land-locked, mountaneous kingdom completely surrounded by the Republic of South Africa. The country's name means the "land of the people who speak Sotho". The population is mostly Sotho-speaking Basuto. Bauto is the principal tribal group. The country became a British protecorate (1868). The British called it Basutoland. The country became independent as a constitutional monarcy (1966). The country's name was changed to Lesotho. King Moshoeshoe reigned as the Basuto National Party dominated elections and governed for the first two decades of independence. The military seized power (1986). The military government exiled King Moshoeshoe (1990), but he returned (1992). He was reinstated as monarch in 1995. Constitutional government was restored (1993). The country remained unstable politcally. Contested eklectins resilted in proteas amnd a military mutiny (1988). The Southern African Development Community oversaw a South African and Botswana military intervention. Lesotho is a poor country. The economy is based on farming and livestock. Lesotho hecily relied on remittances from miners employed in South Africa.There was what was called the Great Basuto Migration each year when the men went to South Africa to work in the mines. The number of these mineworkers has declined steadily in recent years. Customs duties from the Southern Africa Customs Union (a artifact of British rule) provided most of government revenue. The Government in recent years .has moved to strengthened its tax system so as not to be so dependent on customs duties. Lesotho completed a major hydropower facility (January 1998). This has made possible the sale of water to South Africa and generated royalties for Lesotho. Lesotho now produces about 90 percent of its electrical power needs. Small-scale manufacturing based on farm products is developing and supports the milling, canning, leather, and jute industries. There is also a growing apparel-assembly industry. This has benefitted from trade benefits through the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act. Despite the diversification in recent yeas, Lesotho's economy is still centered on subsistence agriculture, especially livestock. Drought has adversely affected the agricultural sector. The ecomomy continues to be aflicted by a concentration of wealth and inequality in the distribution of income. . Sotho is used in Lesotho primary schools, but English is used in the secondary schools. The country has one of the world's highest rates of AIDs infections.

Geography

Lesotho is a land-locked, mountaneous kingdom completely surrounded by the Republic of South Africa.

History

The country became a British protecorate (1868). The British called it Basutoland. The country became independent as a constitutional monarcy (1966). The country's name was changed to Lesotho. King Moshoeshoe reigned as the Basuto National Party (BNP) dominated the ciuntry and governed for the first two decades of independence. The BNP was about to o lose the first post-independence general elections (January 1970). Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan annulled the election. He refused to cede power to the Basotho Congress Party (BCP) which won the elections and imprisoned its leadership. This essentially ended free elections and democracy for more than a decade. The military seized power (1986). Contested elections resulted in protests and a military mutiny (1988). The military government exiled King Moshoeshoe (1990), but he returned (1992). He was reinstated as monarch (1995). Constitutional government was restored (1993). The country remained unstable politcally. The Southern African Development Community oversaw a South African and Botswana military intervention.

Economy

Lesotho is a poor country. The economy is based on farming and livestock. Lesotho hevily relied on remittances from miners employed in South Africa.There was what was called the Great Basuto Migration each year when the men went to South Africa to work in the mines. The number of these mineworkers has declined steadily in recent years. Customs duties from the Southern Africa Customs Union (a artifact of British rule) provided most of government revenue. The Government in recent years .has moved to strengthened its tax system so as not to be so dependent on customs duties. Lesotho completed a major hydropower facility (January 1998). This has made possible the sale of water to South Africa and generated royalties for Lesotho. Lesotho now produces about 90 percent of its electrical power needs. Small-scale manufacturing based on farm products is developing and supports the milling, canning, leather, and jute industries. There is also a growing apparel-assembly industry. This has benefitted from trade benefits through the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act. Despite the diversification in recent yeas, Lesotho's economy is still centered on subsistence agriculture, especially livestock. Drought has adversely affected the agricultural sector. The ecomomy continues to be aflicted by a concentration of wealth and inequality in the distribution of income.

Ethnicity

The country's name means the "land of the people who speak Sotho". The population is mostly Sotho-speaking Basuto. Bauto is the principal tribal group.

Schools

The missionary activity in Lesotho left the country at the time of independence was the relatively comprehensive development of education, remarable for such a poor country. Religious groups, especually the Roman Catholic Church continue to play an important role in education. This has played an important role in assisting a poor country finance its public education system. Something approaching 75 percent of all primary and secondary schools are owned and opperated by Catholics. Sotho is used in Lesotho primary schools, but English is used in the secondary schools. Sesotho and English are official languages, and other languages spoken include Xhosa.

Religion

Traditional religions involved both animism and the veneration of ancestors. As in much of Sub-Saharn Africa, Christian missionaries began to reshape religuous beliefs (early-19th century). King Moshoeshoe invited the fitst missionaroies to Lesotho, primarily believing they woukd help obtain horses and modern weapons to repulse invaders (1833). Christian missionaries have since been very active in Lesotho. Most of the population is Christian (about 90 percent) with a small number of Muslims. The Muslims are concentrated in the northeastand are mostly Asians. Reflecting the British colonial influence, the Lesotho Constitution provides for freedom of religion. The Government since independence has respected this this right. Many Christians continue to practice some elements of traditiional religion including shurch services that may include chanting, drumming, language, and dress. The principal Christian denominations are Roman Catholic (70 percent). The primary Protestant denominations are the Lesotho Evangelical Church and the Anglican Church. The Catholics in particular have allowed parishioners to incorporate traditional customs into worship services. The importance of Roman Catholocism reflects this flexibility as well as mssionary work and the church's involvement in education.

Medical

The country has one of the world's highest rates of AIDs infections. The reason for this as in much of African is resistance to the use of condunms.

Clothing

The Basotho people living in the high Lesotho mountains sometimes referred to as the 'blanket people'. his is because the clothing people is primarily a blanlet. Boys might wear underpants, rubber boots (a modrn innovation), a woollen hat, and a blanket. It is not unusual to find a little barefoot boy tending sheep on a cold day with just a blanket wrapped around him. Bklankets were common because women could weave them. Making fitted clothing was more complicated to weave. Here we see Lesotho boys wearing traditioinal garments, esoecially the blankets. With the exception of the Western stocking caps (figure 1). A reader tells us, however, that this may reflect the influence of the trditional Basotho hat--a conical woven straw hat with a distinctive topknot. This is a symbol of Lesotho's unification. It is meant to depict a mountaintop (conical and topknotted) that is part of the coyntry's symbolism. It is visible from the fortress and tomb of Moshoeshoe I near Masaru. Both men and women commonly wear the wool Basotho blanket as a cloak, noy=t ionly during the winter, but valso the summer. The choice of color and pattern are up the individual.









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Created: 5:46 AM 10/15/2006
Last updated: 4:35 AM 5/27/2012