Country Profile

Country Profile Lesotho

Country Profile of Lesotho

Prime Minister:   Thomas Thabane

Capital:  Maseru

Land area:  30.355 square kilometers

Population:   1.936.181; birth rate is 25.92 births/1,000 population; death rate at 14.91 deaths/1,000 population 

Current life expectancy is 52.62 years.

Monetary unit:  Loti

Languages: Southern Sotho, English (official)

Ethnicity: Basotho 99.7%, Europeans, Asians and other make up 0.3%

Literacy rate:  89.6% of people in Lesotho are literate. Male: 83.3% and Females:95.6%

Economic summary: Real growth is at 3.4% and the inflation rate is 5.4% and the unemployment rate at 25%

Agriculture:  The agricultural sector in Lesotho employs over 57% of the labour force. Most products and livestock are roduced in small villages.

Geography
Lesotho is a landlocked country, completely surrounded by South Africa; mountainous, more than 80% of the country is 1,800 meters above sea level.

Government
C
onstitutional monarchy with two legislative houses (Senate [33 nonelected seats]; National Assembly [120])

History
The Basotho people have lived in southern Africa since around the fifteenth century whereas the modern Basotho nation of Lesotho emerged during the early 1800s under the leadership of King Moshoeshoe who gathered together different clans of Sotho-Tswana people that were dispersed across southern Africa. King Moshoeshoe is considered the father of Lesotho’s history. He began his rise to prominence as a local chief of a small village. Around 1820 he led his villagers to Butha-Buthe, a mountain stronghold, where they survived the first battles of the Mfecane (Difaqane, or Lifaqane in the Sesotho language) an African expression meaning "the crushing" or "scattering" and exemplifies a period of widespread chaos and disturbance in southern Africa during the period between 1815 and about 1840 when Zulu chieftain Shaka created a militaristic and expansive Zulu kingdom. In 1824 Moshoeshoe moved his people to Thaba-Bosiu, a mountaintop that was even easier to defend. King Moshoeshoe rose in diplomatic status with his acts of friendship towards his beaten enemies. He provided land and protection to various Sotho peoples and this strengthened the growing Basotho nation. His influence and followers grew from an inflow of refugees and victims of the continuing Mfecane

By the later part of the 1800s, King Moshoeshoe established the nation of the Basotho or Basutoland. Around the 1830s Europeans (mainly Afrikaners) started to migrate as settlers into the centre of South Africa and continued the on-going conflict between Europeans and Africans. In an attempt to be prepared for any such conflict in Basutoland, Moshoeshoe asked missionaries to come and live among his people. He believed that in this way he could buffer his country against the encroaching Europeans and other African groups.

It was only in 1950 that the first minor concessions were made to the elective principle in Basutoland, though the British still refused to concede legislative powers. In the background, however, rapid social, economic and political change was under way, not merely in Basutoland, but in South Africa too. As the self-confidence of educated commoners grew, they began to take a more prominent role in Basutoland, to a great extent displacing the chiefs as the backbone of society.

Over the decades thousands of workers have been forced by the lack of job opportunities to find work in South African mines. South Africa has on several occasions intervened in Lesotho's politics, including in 1998 when it sent its troops to help quell unrest.

On 30 August 2014 there were newspaper reports that Lesotho Defence Force had attacked key police stations and had surrounded the Prime Minister’s official residence. It was also reported that Prime Minister Thomas Thabane had fled across the border. Intelligence sources claimed that Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, who is the commander of the Lesotho defence force, had orchestrated the coup after Thabane ordered him to relinquish his command. This was followed by the reports that Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao had fled the country to South Africa after assassination attempt. He was to replace Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli as the commander of Lesotho Defence Force.

The political crisis in Lesotho has been reported to be a result of power struggle between Thabane, who commands the loyalty of the police, and the deputy prime minister, Mothetjoa Metsing, who has the support of the army. Tensions have been high since June when Thabane suspended parliament to avoid a vote of no confidence.

On 03 September 2014, Lesotho's Prime Minister Thomas Thabane returned to his home country after fleeing following an attempted coup, which the military denies. He was accompanied by South African Police Services who then took control of security at the prime minister's official residence, as well as deputy prime minister Metsing's home.

Jeff Radebe, minister in the South African presidency, described the protection for Thabane and his deputy as a transitional measure until the political crisis in Kingdom of Lesotho was resolved.

Prime Minister Thabane and his deputies appeared before King Letsie III to present a report about meetings held on 31 August -01 September 2014 in South Africa to resolve the crisis. South Africa's President Jacob Zuma held separate talks, under the auspices of the SADC regional bloc, with Thabane and Metsing. Afterwards, SADC said it would send an observer team to Lesotho and that the two leaders agreed to "clear timetables" that would lead to the restoration of parliament.

 On Thursday, 02 October 2014, Ramaphosa announced that an agreement dubbed The Maseru Facilitation Declaration had been reached with political stakeholders as follows:

King Letsie III will reconvene parliament on the 17th October 2014, with its main business to look at how to prepare the country for a free and fair elections, in addition for the passing of the budget.

  • An election in Lesotho will be held towards the end of February 2015 on the date to be decided,
  • Parliament will be dissolved at the beginning of December 2014

Ramaphosa called upon the army and police to stop fighting. Instead he asked them to help restore peace.

Lesotho depends on South Africa as an employer, and as buyer of its main natural resource - water. A significant portion of Lesotho people are working in South Africa. The economy of Lesotho is based on agriculture, livestock, manufacturing and mining. Water and diamonds are Lesotho's significant natural resources. Lesotho has a multi-billion-dollar Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP), which supplies water into South Africa mainly Gauteng Province.

Lesotho's economy is based on exports of water and electricity to South Africa, manufacturing, agriculture, livestock, and to some extent the earnings of labourers employed in South Africa. The country also exports diamonds, wool, and mohair.

Lesotho is geographically surrounded by South Africa and economically integrated. The majority of households subsist on farming or migrant labour, primarily miners in South Africa for three to nine months of the year. 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. 

The former British protectorate has had a turbulent, if not particularly bloody, period of independence with several parties, army factions and the royal family competing for power in coups and mutinies. The position of king has been reduced to a symbolic and unifying role.

Lesotho has one of the world's highest rates of HIV-Aids infection. A drive to encourage people to take HIV tests was spurred on by former Prime Minister Mosisili, who was tested in public in 2004.

Poverty is deep and widespread, with the UN describing 40% of the population as "ultra-poor". Food output has been hit by the deaths from Aids of farmers.

Economic woes have been compounded by the scrapping of a global textile quota system which exposed producers to Asian competition. Thousands of jobs in the industry have been lost.

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