Lesotho History

Lesotho History and Geography


The first residents of Lesotho are believed to have been the San, or Bushmen, displaced during the 18th century by the Nguni (Bantu language group). Beginning in 1790, Sotho- speaking tribes were also established, peacefully coexisting with the Nguni until the early 19th century. At that time, King Shaka, head of the Zulu empire of what is now South African territory, tried to conquer the natural region of Lesotho, Basuto, which was under the command of the young King Moshoeshoe. In 1843, as a result of conflicts between the Basuto and the Boers (Dutch settlers), Moshoeshoe I asked for support from Great Britain, which in 1868 incorporated the country into its Cape colony.

Internal autonomy was achieved by Lesotho in 1964. In 1965 the transitional Constitution to an independent system came into force and in 1966 Lesotho gained its full independence, under the reign of King Moshoeshoe II. In 1970, the official party lost the elections. Prime Minister Jonathan led a coup, arrested the king and banished him for a short period of time.

In 1974, Lesotho reclaimed the lands annexed by South Africa during the 19th century. In 1980, the South African rand was replaced in Lesotho by a new currency of its own, the loti. In 1983, the government decided to enter into full relations with the People’s Republic of China, the People’s Republic of Korea and the USSR. On January 20, 1986, a bloodless military coup, led by the head of the Armed Forces, General Justin Lejanya, removed Leabua Jonathan’s government regime. A Military Council and a Council of Ministers led by Lejanya, who governs on behalf of King Moshoeshoe, was established.

Although South Africa denied any intervention in the event, the new government showed a much more favorable attitude towards South African policy on regional security. Both governments announced, in March 1986, that they had reached an informal agreement, by which neither country would launch attacks on the other from its territory. During the course of that year, Lesotho refrained from supporting other African countries that imposed economic sanctions on South Africa.

Popular opposition to the Military Council continued throughout 1987. In June, the leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP), Charles Mofeli, was arrested for a week after requesting a return to parliamentary democracy from the king and General Lejanya. The five major opposition parties called on the OAU, the Commonwealth and the government of South Africa to try to get the government of Lesotho to restore a civil system to the country. A month later, the return (after 14 years of exile) of the leader of the Basoto Congressional Party (BCP), Ntsu Mokhehle, who held talks with the Military Council, was allowed.

In 1989 General Lejanya was accused of the death of a civilian, although the military man blamed his subordinate, some members of the Military Council called for his resignation. Despite the fact that an investigative commission managed to get Lejanya to admit the charges, a month later the verdict of justified homicide was handed down.

In February of 1990, General Lejanya replaced three members of the Military Council and one of the Council of Ministers, alleging their involvement in an anti -government plot. When King Moshoeshoe refused to approve the changes, General Lejanya suspended his powers over the executive and legislative branches.

In 1995 Moshoeshoe II regained the throne, which died a year later, leaving Letsie III as the new monarch.



As a country located in Africa according to SIMPLYYELLOWPAGES, Lesotho has a rugged terrain. 70% of its territory is made up of mountainous landscapes, whose heights sometimes exceed 3,000 m. The highest areas are in the northeast of the country, whose highest peak is the Tabana Ntlenyana (3,483 m), the highest point in southern Africa, and in the east, where the Drakensberg Mountains are erected.

In a western direction, the altitude decreases (with an average of 2,200 to 1,800 m) until it reaches the lowest lands (1,500 to 1,800 m), very rich and populated, that border the Caledón River.


In the Maloti Mountains (in the center of the northeast area), two of the main rivers of South Africa are born: the Tugela (to the east) and the Orange (to the west).


The climate is subtropical, moderate. The temperatures are consequently mild (between 25 ° C in summer and 15 ° C in winter). In the mountainous region the temperature drops several degrees. Thus, it is possible to find snow-capped peaks in the Maloti Mountains in winter.

Most of the rains fall in the form of torrential storms. The precipitations oscillate between 750 mm per year in the western fringe and 1,000 mm in the east. This climate favors the growth of grass, so there are excellent pastures for cattle and sheep, especially on the mountain slopes.

Flora and fauna

The flora is scarce. It consists mainly of olive trees, willows, garlic, aloe and weeds, while the fauna is reduced to animals such as antelope, hare and some reptiles.


The vast majority (85%) of the residents belong to the Sotho people, who speak the Bantu language. The largest subgroup of the Sotho people is the Kuena, made up of the Molibeli, Monaheng, Iillakuana, and Kxuakxuayfokeng tribes. The remaining 15% include the Nguni, Natal, Cape, Mahlape, and whites of African and English descent. There are also small minorities of Asians and mulattoes.

Approximately half of the population lives in a quarter of the territory, while only 4% lived in urban areas in 1970. In the middle of that year, the city and the surroundings of Maseru (capital and largest city of Lesotho), concentrated 52,127 residents. The average population density at this stage was about 48 people per km2, although it tripled in the lowlands and dropped to a third in the mountains.

Vegetative growth has been affected by the emigration of many young people to South Africa in search of work.

Lesotho History