The Kingdom of Lesotho in the south of Africa occupies area of 30.355 sq. km and is an enclave on the territory of the Republic of South Africa. It is a constitutional monarchy. The Head of State is the King. The country is a member of the British Commonwealth. The official languages are English and Sesuto. Sometimes Lesotho is called “the African Switzerland”.
In Lesotho some traditional crafts are developed, for example the production of ornamental ceramics and leather goods, beaded necklaces. In many areas there are well preserved rock paintings of the ancient inhabitants of the region. The capital and only relatively large city in Lesotho is Maseru, but in a number of smaller towns from the early 1970s began to actively develop tourism infrastructure – a network of hotels, mountain sports and resorts.
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The Basotho Plateau (altitude 2300-3000 m, the highest point – Mount Tabana-Ntlenyana, 3482 m), where the main part of the country is located, is surrounded on three sides by the spurs of the Dragon Mountains. The western part of Lesotho is a treeless, hilly plateau, and the mountain ranges in the east are flanked by a nearly vertical basalt wall of the Great Escarpment.
Climate and Weather
Despite the proximity of the ocean, the climate is continental and very harsh for these latitudes. Lesotho is the only country in Africa, where almost the entire territory is covered in snow for a short time in winter, and there are even snowstorms in the mountains. In the valleys in summer the air is heated to 34 ° C, and in winter in the mountains is cooled to -16 ° C, although the average temperature in January 25 ° C, July 15 ° C. Annual precipitation, falling mainly in summer, is 730 mm. The major rivers of the African south – the Orange River and its tributary the Caledon – take their source in Lesotho. The streams rushing from the mountains abound in high waterfalls (up to 183 m).
Flora and fauna
Thin vegetation of the highlands is replaced by lush alpine meadows and in the foothills by steppe with islands of acacia trees. The forests on the territory of the country are almost completely absent.
The animal life is poor, with the black buffalo and small antelopes among the larger animals. The population (about 2.2 million people) is mostly Basuto people, two-thirds of whom practice Christianity, and a third follow traditional indigenous beliefs.
Lesotho’s early population consisted of gatherers and hunters who spoke Khoisan languages. The Bantu who came later displaced the indigenous population.
In the 20s and 30s of the 19th century, the power of King Moshweshwe I was consolidated in Lesotho, under whose protection flocked those of Sotho who had fled from the growing might of the Zulus led by Shaka during the so-called Mfekane. Lesotho was recognized by Great Britain on December 13, 1843.
On March 12, 1868, Lesotho became a British protectorate with the name Basutoland.
From August 11, 1871, to March 18, 1884, Lesotho was annexed to the British Cape Province. On March 18, 1884, Basutoland again became a separate colony.
On April 30, 1965, Basutoland was granted autonomy and on October 4, 1966, independence as Lesotho.
In January 1970 the ruling Basotho National Party (BNP) lost the election. Prime Minister Leabua-Jonathan refused to surrender power to the victorious Basotho Congress Party (BCP), designated himself “Tono-Kholo” (in Sesotho it roughly means Prime Minister), and arrested the leaders of the BCP.
The BCP immediately began preparing for resistance. The Lesotho Liberation Army (LLA) was organized and trained in Libya, assisted also by Tanzania and Maoist organizations.
In 1978 a guerrilla war broke out. In 1980, BCP leader Nzu Mokhehle defected to South Africa’s apartheid regime. In 1980 the government carried out a massive crackdown on BCP supporters.
The BNP party ruled until January 1986, when it was ousted in a military coup. The Minister of War transferred extraordinary powers to King Moshweswe II, who until then had played only a ceremonial role. In 1987, as a result of a conflict with the army, the king fled the country and his son Letsie III was proclaimed the new king.
The next military coup took place in 1991, when the head of the military junta, Justin Metsing-Lekhania, was removed and General Elias Piswana-Ramaema came to power, holding power until democratic elections in 1993, in which the BCP won. Former King Moshweshwe II was able to return from exile as an ordinary citizen. King Letsie III tried to persuade the government to appoint his father Moshweshwe II as head of state, but the latter rejected the claim.
In August 1994 King Letsie III, supported by the military, staged a coup and removed the BCP government from power. The new government did not gain full international recognition. SADC member countries negotiated and secured the return of the BCP government on the condition that the king-father lead the country. In 1996, after lengthy negotiations, the BCP party came back to power and the king returned in 1995, but in 1996 Moshweshwe was killed in a car accident and the throne returned to his son Letsiye III. In 1997 the BCP party split.
In 1997 Prime Minister Nzu Mokhehle formed a new party, the Congress for Democracy in Lesotho (LCD), was supported by parliament, and formed a new government. The LCD won the 1998 elections, with Pakalitha Mosisili at the helm. Although the election was internationally monitored and declared legitimate, the opposition refused to recognize it.
In August 1998, the opposition began to stage mass protests and demonstrations, clashes erupted, the details of which are not entirely clear and the coverage of which is controversial even in South Africa. In September, international SADC forces decided to storm the capital. The Botswana troops were well received by the population, but the presence of South African troops caused resentment and fighting broke out. The conflict worsened when South African troops raised the South African flag over the royal palace. In 1999, international SADC forces left the country, leaving Maseru in ruins; other towns were also destroyed. Many South African and Lesotho soldiers died in the fighting.
In May 2002 the country held new elections under an improved system involving a proportional electoral system with the opposition in the Assembly. The LCD party won again with 54% of the vote, but opposition parties also won seats in the Assembly. This was the first election in Lesotho that took place almost without incident.
The government is now trying to stabilize the situation and political structure of the country, drawing on foreign experience. Prime Minister Pakalita Mosisili has adopted a program to fight AIDS, which affects a large part of the population.
Lesotho exports water and electricity to South Africa, and manufacturing and agriculture are common. Many of the inhabitants of Lesotho work in South Africa. Lesotho exports diamonds, wool, clothes. In Lesotho there is a department of Levi’s firm which produces jeans. Lesotho’s economy is integrated with the South African economy. Seasonal work in the mines in RSA for 3-9 months a year is common. More than half of the population lives by agriculture.
Lesotho receives economic aid, in particular from the USA, World Bank, Ireland, Great Britain, European Union, Germany.
A short stretch of railroad connects Lesotho with South Africa.
The Southern African Customs Union (SACU) – Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho – are united into a single market, and all these countries have the same currency, except Botswana.
Recent estimates of the AIDS rate in Lesotho is 29%, and the UN predicts it will rise to 36% in 15 years, which will lead to a sharp decline in life expectancy. In 2001, life expectancy was 48 years for men and 56 years for women. According to the latest statistics, life expectancy has fallen to 37 years.
Although the government realized the danger and began to take action as early as 1999, the success can be recognized as very limited.
In June 2006, the Clinton Foundation began a program to test the entire population, a program supported by Bill Clinton and Bill Gates.
Interesting facts about Lesotho
Hello, dear readers of Interessno.ru. The Kingdom of Lesotho is an enclave state (part of the territory of a state entirely surrounded by the territory of another state) located in South Africa and surrounded on all sides by the territory of South Africa. Also, Lesotho is the only state in the world, the entire territory of which is above 1,400 meters above sea level.
But that’s not all there is to know about this state. In today’s publication we have tried to collect all the most interesting facts about Lesotho. We hope that our efforts were not in vain and the information will be useful and interesting to both children and schoolchildren, as well as an adult audience.
The territory that is now called the Kingdom of Lesotho was formerly called Basutoland. Both Lesotho and Basutoland are names derived from the Sesotho language (the language of the Bantu family) spoken by many groups who came together to form the nation in the early 1800s.
Lesotho is also called the “Kingdom in the Sky” or the “Switzerland of Southern Africa” because of its mountainous terrain. The country is also often referred to as a “Hostage State” because it is surrounded on all sides by a neighboring state.
In 22 years, from 1998 to 2020, the country’s population has barely increased. While in 1998 Lesotho had 2,089,289 people, in 2020 the number is in the neighborhood of 2,100,000. The low population growth is due to the high incidence of HIV/AIDS. According to some sources, over 50% of women over the age of 40 have HIV/AIDS.
Life expectancy in Lesotho is shockingly low. The average life expectancy for both men and women is less than 40 years.
In terms of groups, 98% of the population is Basuto people. The remaining 2% are from Asia and Europe.
With the exception of English, all of the major languages spoken in this state are members of the Niger-Congo language family. Sesotho is spoken by most of the population. It, together with English, are the two official languages of the country.
As for English, it is more in demand in business and among politicians.
This country was originally inhabited by Bushmen, who roamed the territory of South Africa, as evidenced by their drawings in the river gorges. During the 1700s and 1800s, tribal wars led to the destruction of many South African tribes. Those who survived the wars banded together and fled to the highlands of what is now Lesotho. There they formed the current Basuto ethnic group. In the 1800s, the Basuto group lost most of its territories to the wars. The leader of the group turned to Great Britain for help, after which the country became a protectorate of the Kingdom. Independence from Great Britain was obtained by Lesotho in 1966.
More than 80% of the population live in the lowlands, where the soil conditions are more favorable for farming. The western border of Lesotho has one of the highest population densities. The capital city of Maseru, with an area of only 138 km2, is home to about 330,000 people.
Cattle are the real wealth in this country. The Basuto people value cows more than money. Usually a rich villager is one who has many cows. His way of life is very different from that of ordinary, average or poor villagers. Wealthy villagers have better and stronger homes, and they often send their children to private schools or to study abroad (most often in Italy, England, and Canada).
Lesotho is a very poor country. Apart from water and a few natural resources, it has nothing. However, even these few resources are catastrophically insufficient for a relatively small population. The country buys most of its products and goods from its neighbor, South Africa. Also, most of its able-bodied citizens leave their country and go to South Africa to work. In the 1990s, remittances from South Africa accounted for 2/3 of the country’s GDP. Today their share has fallen to 1/3 of GDP.
As for the unemployment statistics, it reaches a catastrophic 35-50%.
Despite its mountainous terrain, the country boasts a fairly rich flora and fauna. There are about 340 species of birds in Lesotho, including 10 endangered species. Apart from birds there are about 17 species of reptiles, including geckos, lizard snakes, and 60 species of mammals, including those endemic to Lesotho.
Diamonds are the main mineral source in Lesotho. The Letseng diamond mine, in the Maloti Mountains in the northeast of the country, is the highest diamond mine in the world. It is 3,100 meters above sea level. And despite the fact that it does not produce a large number of diamonds, some of the highest quality and largest stones in the world are mined here. In 2004 it was closed, but in 2006 it was bought by Gem Diamonds and started production again.
While the women do most of the farming and housework, the men are responsible for herding the cattle. Boys begin to learn cattle herding from the age of 5 or 6. In the highlands, where there is little or no pasture, many shepherds spend months away from home alone with their herds.
As in most African countries, women in Lesotho have no special powers, privileges, or rights. The wife is the property of her husband and must obey all his commands.
We also recommend to read: Interesting facts about Laos
If you visit this country, you will notice how women carry small children on their backs. It may seem strange, but this is the way of life in this country. While in European countries, women take maternity leave and stay home with their children after giving birth, in Lesotho women strap their children on their backs and go to work in the fields to earn a living.
This concludes our publication. We hope you found the information in the article valuable and interesting.
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