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Muso oa Lesotho (Sesotho)
Kingdom of Lesotho (English)
Kingdom of Lesotho
Lesotho flag
Lesotho coat of arms
flag coat of arms
Motto : Khotso, Pula, Nala
( Sesotho for: peace, rain, prosperity )
Official language Sesotho and English
Capital Maseru
Form of government parliamentary monarchy
Government system parliamentary democracy
Head of state King Letsie III. (David Mohato Letsie Bereng Seeiso)
Head of government Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro
surface 30,355 km²
population 2,007,201 (2016 census)
Population density 66 inhabitants per km²
Population development + 0.30% (2016 estimate)
gross domestic product
  • Nominal
  • Total ( PPP )
  • GDP / inh. (nominal)
  • GDP / inh. (KKP)
  • $ 2.267 billion ( 163. )
  • $ 6.976 billion ( 164. )
  • 1,170 USD ( 158. )
  • 3,601 USD ( 147. )
Human Development Index 0.497 ( 160th ) (2016)
currency Loti (LSL)
South African Rand (ZAR)
currency union with South Africa
independence October 4, 1966
(from the UK )
National anthem Lesōthō fatše la bo ntat'a rōna
Time zone UTC + 2
License Plate LS
ISO 3166 LS , LSO, 426
Internet TLD .ls
Telephone code +266
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The Kingdom of Lesotho ( Sesotho [ lɪ'sʊːtʰʊ ]), 1868 to 1966 Basutoland , is a landlocked country in southern Africa . Lesotho is completely enclosed by the Republic of South Africa . The capital is Maseru . The form of government is a parliamentary monarchy .

Lesotho means "land of the Sotho -speaking people", whereby Sesotho is meant here . Because of its special altitude, the country is also called The Kingdom in the Sky . In the Human Development Index of 2019 Lesotho is on the 164th of 189 seats.


The Kingdom of Lesotho is between 29 and 30 degrees south latitude and 28 and 30 degrees east longitude. The country is one of the smaller countries in Africa (42nd place out of 54) and, at 30,355 km², is about the size of Belgium . It is completely surrounded by another state (South Africa), which is otherwise only the case with San Marino and Vatican City . It shares a border of around 1106 kilometers with its only neighbor . It is bordered by the South African Free State Province to the west and north , KwaZulu-Natal to the east and the Eastern Cape Province to the south .

The western part of Lesotho lies on a high plateau , the so-called Highveld ( called Lowlands because of its relative location within the country ), which is the main settlement area of ​​the country and consists largely of sandstone . The Lowlands are about 1,400 to 1,700 meters above sea level. The landscape is characterized by table mountains and river valleys. The capital Maseru is also located there .

The eastern plateaus and mountains (highlands) , on the other hand, are sometimes over 2000 meters high and consist of basalt , which was formed by volcanic eruptions around 170 to 150 million years ago. The highlands are characterized by deep river valleys and numerous mountains and mountain ranges. Almost crescent-shaped, starting in the southwest and ending in the north, the country is traversed by the Drakensberg ( called Maloti in Lesotho ). The highest mountain in the country and in all of southern Africa is the Thabana Ntlenyana with 3482 meters.

The lowest point in the country lies at the confluence of the Oranje ( called Senqu in Lesotho ) and the Makhaleng at around 1,390 meters above sea level. The altitude of Lesotho is a unique geographical feature: As the only independent country in the world, the entire national territory is over 1000 meters, with an additional 80% of the area over 1800 meters.

Erosion sites at Ha Lebesa

The two major South African rivers, the Oranje and Caledon, have their source in Lesotho . Like other rivers in Lesotho, they have formed deep canyons . On the edge of the basalt rock from which the Drakensberg Mountains are formed, there are numerous waterfalls , of which the Maletsunyane waterfall near Semonkong is the highest uninterrupted waterfall in southern Africa at around 192 meters. The floor of the plateaus at the transition to the Highveld in the west consists of soft sandstone. Because of this, and also because of over-settlement and excessive demands on the soil - only around eleven percent of the country's area can be used for agriculture - these areas suffer particularly badly from erosion .

The country's natural resources are water and, to a lesser extent, diamonds and other minerals . The rich water reservoirs with an estimated daily discharge of 7,280 million liters are the starting point for large-scale projects for energy and water supply. As part of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project , the construction of several dams began, of which the Katse dam is the largest.

Climate and vegetation

Due to its location in the southern hemisphere , the seasons in Lesotho are opposite to those in the northern hemisphere. The climate is moderately warm due to the high altitude of the entire country. In winter, between June and August, it can get very cold and snow can fall at high altitudes to the east. During the day, however, it is also sunny in winter, and throughout the year the country has an average of around 300 sunny days. In the summer months between November and March it is mostly hot in Lesotho. There are thunderstorms about 100 days a year, mostly in summer. Due to the altitude, temperatures can fluctuate very strongly during the day (between −15 ° C at night in winter and up to over 30 ° C during the day in summer). The average annual temperature in the capital Maseru is 15 ° C. In the high mountain areas of the Drakensberg, snowfall is possible all year round. About 85% of the annual precipitation - the national average about 600 to 800 mm - falls during the summer, which is why the landscape is mostly parched in the dry winter months.

Maseru climate diagram
Snow in the mountains of Lesotho

Flora and fauna

There are few trees in the entire country. These are mainly limited to locations in protected valleys or plantations. The most common tree species are eucalyptus trees , acacias and, in the villages, peach trees . At high altitudes in the country, there are pastures in the river valleys . There are also many species of aloes . The Spiraloe ( Aloe polyphylla , Sesotho: lekhala ) is endemic to Lesotho . The mountain cabbage tree ( Cussonia paniculata ), which can grow up to three meters high, is also typical . The wild forms of the Cosmea , Zinnia and Tagetes are quite common. Some plant species, such as the latter two, were brought into the country from Central and South America .

The fauna is characterized by smaller animals. The largest mammal living in the wild is the deer antelope ( Pelea capreolus , Sesotho: letsa ), which is almost the size of a deer . Noticeable are birds such as storks , ibis , herons and vultures , including the rare bearded vulture . A white stork that was ringed in Rossitten in East Prussia was found in what is now Lesotho in the 1920s. Smaller birds include weaver birds and the nectar- sucking malachite nectar bird . Reptiles, including some species of snakes , amphibians and a few fish, are also found, as well as numerous insects and other small animals, similar to those in neighboring countries. Most of the pets are cattle , but also horses , sheep , goats , donkeys , chickens , dogs and cats .

Around 1830, hippos , zebras , wildebeests , ostriches and a few lions were still found in what is now Lesotho. The 65 km² Sehlabathebe National Park in the southeast of the country has existed since 1969. The Tšehlanyane National Park in the Butha-Buthe district is another protected area in Lesotho, but is not officially recognized as a national park .


The surface is dominated by the Drakensberg . They are a mighty elevation of predominantly basaltic rocks that were formed around 180 million years ago by volcanism that was widespread in the southern hemisphere. The volcanic forces broke through the existing sediment cover of the Karoo main basin and created further uplifts in the edge area of ​​this zone. The flatter areas, especially in the western parts of the country, consist mainly of sandstones that are extracted in several places for regional and South African needs.


Population development of Lesotho 1960–2008

Lesotho is one of the few African nation states that has a homogeneous nation with a common culture, identity and tradition. The more than two million inhabitants of the country are ethnically almost completely (about 99%) the southern Bantu folk of Basotho attributable under morena Moshoeshoe I. was pooled from many individual tribes. Small minorities in the country are groups of Zulu , Xhosa , Europeans and Asians .

Due to the geographical conditions, the population is very unevenly distributed within the country. About 70% live in the lower western parts of the country. The more fertile areas of the country can also be found here. The largest metropolitan area is the capital Maseru and its surrounding area. The unemployment in the country is about 45% (as of 2002), making it one of the highest worldwide. This quota has risen sharply since the end of apartheid in South Africa, as many Basotho, who were mainly employed as migrant workers in the mines of South Africa, came back to the country after they were closed. Currently, 35% of the male employable residents of Lesotho are still working in neighboring South Africa (as of 2011). The rest is almost entirely dependent on agriculture. In 2016, over 100,000 Lesotho citizens applied for an official residence permit in South Africa.

In 2019, the population of residents over 64 years of age was around 5%, while around 33% of the total population were under 15 years of age. The average number of children per woman was 3.2 and the infant mortality rate was 53 per 1000 births. The maternal mortality rate in 2016 was 4.87 per 1,000 births.

Languages ​​and religions

The country's official languages ​​are Sesotho (Southern Sotho) and English . English as the official language is mainly due to the time as the British crown colony , but the mother tongue of 99% of the population is Sesotho. Other languages ​​in the country, which are spoken by very small groups of the population, are isiZulu , Sephuthi and isiXhosa .

About 90% of the total population are Christians . Around half of the Christians are members of the Roman Catholic Church , 40% are Protestants (especially followers of the Lesotho Evangelical Church in Southern Africa and Anglicans ) and 10% followers of other local denominations . There are also members of traditional religions (around ten percent of the total population) as well as some Muslims and Hindus .


In Lesotho, as in all other countries in southern Africa, AIDS is the greatest demographic problem. In 2017, an estimated 24% of 15–49 year olds were infected with the HI virus . This is the second highest rate in the world after Swaziland and before Botswana . The absolute number of sick people was around 320,000 in 2017. Due to the enormous spread of AIDS, population growth has slowed down in recent years and was estimated to be 0.33% in 2012. The average life expectancy is around 53 years. Women in Lesotho only have a slightly longer life expectancy than men, as more women than men are infected with the HI virus in southern Africa.

One of the reasons for the large number of sick people is the government's lack of awareness-raising policies. Only after the disease had been able to spread almost unhindered for years did the government and the queen start a nationwide program in 1999 to educate and fight AIDS and to support those infected. Since 2005/2006, antiretroviral therapy (ART) has been offered for AIDS patients in various state and private hospitals . However, these programs suffer from the growing health care shortage as a large part of the medical workforce is migrating abroad, particularly to South Africa and the United Kingdom. The number of newly infected people fell from around 30,000 in 2005 to around 15,000 in 2017.

In addition to AIDS, tuberculosis is very widespread in Lesotho. Over 70 percent of AIDS sufferers also suffer from this disease due to their weakened immune system .


The illiteracy rate in 2015 was 20%. At that time, 88.3% of women and 70.1% of men aged 15 and over could read and write. Government spending on education was 13% of the national budget in 2008, making Lesotho first among all countries. Many schools are run by church institutions. Attending primary school is compulsory and has been free since 2000. However, only 89% of the girls and 83% of the boys attend primary school . 27% and 18% of them attend a secondary school after 7th grade ( secondary school or high school if the school leads up to 12th grade). In 2014 there were 157 girls for every 100 boys in secondary education. Primary school students are usually from 6 to 13 years old, secondary school students up to 18 years old. Attending secondary school is chargeable and can significantly burden the family budget. There are also costs for the compulsory school uniform and textbooks. At the end of the 12th grade, a final exam is carried out, but only a few students achieve or pass it. Successful students acquire since 2014, the Lesotho General Certificate of Secondary Education , which qualifies for good grades to university entrance and that of Cambridge from controlled Cambridge Overseas School Certificate replaced. Lesotho has one university, the National University of Lesotho in Roma , about 35 kilometers from Maseru. The university has eight faculties and around 7,000 students. It was founded in 1945 as Pius XII College by the Catholic Church, but was later adopted by the state. There are also several institutes for vocational training in Lesotho.

In addition to the British-style formal school system, there is a system of "bush schools" that is little known to Europeans and takes place in hidden places during holidays, for example. There practical life skills that are in the African tradition are taught.


Early history

The mountains of Lesotho became about 25,000 BC. Settled by the San , a hunter-gatherer people. Of the numerous cave and rock paintings that these peoples left in southern Africa, about 5000 can be found in Lesotho, for example at Ha Baroana about 50 kilometers east of Maseru. During the migration of the Bantu tribes, which began around the 4th to 5th centuries, the Nguni peoples came to southern Africa and settled as farmers and shepherds. During the next centuries the area of ​​today's Lesotho was settled by the Bantu coming from the north. The San, who had lived there up to that point, were increasingly displaced by the Basotho and related Tswana groups from around the 11th century and are no longer at home in these regions of South Africa and Lesotho. From the 14th century, the Basotho settlement area comprised large parts of today's South African province of Free State and the western part of today's Lesotho, with the focus of settlement on the fertile banks of the Caledon. The Bantu lived there in small communities mainly from agriculture and cattle breeding , whereby the scarce usable land repeatedly led to unrest among neighboring tribes.

Reign of King Moshoeshoe I.

Map of southern Africa in 1885 with the crown colony of Basutoland
The Qiloane mountain near Thaba Bosiu is considered the template for the Basotho hat

At the beginning of the 19th century, the Zulu king Shaka continued to expand his empire. The area where the Basotho tribes lived was next. This was the dark time of the Lifaqane (German roughly: the times of need), in which robber hordes terrorized the population. There was a famine so severe that cannibalism broke out.

In violent clashes succeeded the Basotho, united and led by 1820 to morena appointed I. Moshoeshoe to defend themselves against the onslaught of Zulu and secure their country. Moshoeshoe had fortresses built in Butha-Buthe and Thaba Bosiu , where he offered shelter to many refugees. Through skilful negotiations he secured the favor and trust of neighboring tribes and thus expanded his sphere of influence. He is therefore often referred to as Moshoeshoe the Great and is considered to be the founder of the Basotho nation. In foreign policy he was supported by the French missionary Eugène Casalis .

From 1830 the Boers advanced in search of land for new settlements and crossed the Vaal for the first time . When more and more Voortrekkers moved to the north-east in the so-called Great Trek between 1836 and 1838 as a result of the tensions between the Boers and the British at the Cape , there were clashes between the Europeans and the troops of Moshoeshoe. Soldiers from the newly founded Orange Free State penetrated further and further into the Basotho settlement area, which led Chief Moshoeshoe to seek protection from the British. In 1843 a protection treaty was signed between the Basotho and the British Cape Colony , but it was dissolved again in 1859 to relieve the strained British relations with the Boer republics . The empire Moshoeshoes could not withstand a renewed attack by Boer troops in 1865 and had to give up a large part of its fertile areas on the Highveld to the Orange Free State. Shortly before the final defeat of the Basotho, the British intervened, fearing too much expansion of the Boer states, and made the remaining land a British colony as Basutoland in 1868. Moshoeshoe, however, managed to ensure the autonomy of his empire through skillful diplomacy. A year after his death in 1870, the autonomy was lost and Basutoland was attached to the Cape Colony.

British Crown Colony of Basutoland

The Basotho people under the new chief Letsie I were not granted representation in the parliament of the Cape Colony, which led to revolts against the British. As a result, all Basotho firearms should be confiscated. Fighting an uprising by Chief Moorosi in 1879 and the subsequent so-called Gun War between 1880 and 1881 were so costly and ineffective for the Cape Colony that Basutoland was placed under British administration again in 1884, this time as a Crown Colony .

When the South African Union was founded in 1910 , Basutoland, as well as Bechuanaland (today: Botswana ) and Swaziland , refused to be incorporated into the new independent state. Today they form the group of BLS countries . In 1938 the British government passed an administrative reform that drastically reduced the number of tribal chiefs and their power. This and the structural change within the country, mainly urbanization and better educational opportunities, led to a significant loss of influence on the part of the royal family and the chiefs during the following decades. After the Second World War , in which several thousand soldiers from Basutoland also took part on the side of the Allies, the desire for independence grew and led to the establishment of several independence movements such as the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP) and the Basutoland National Party (BNP; later Basotho National Party ). The first colonial constitution was signed in 1959 and allowed the country's first free elections in 1960, the year of Moshoeshoe II's coronation . The following elections in 1965 were narrowly won by the BNP and one year later, Basutoland gained independence under the new name Lesotho. The constitutional monarchy was chosen as the form of government, Lesotho's first prime minister was BNP chairman Leabua Jonathan .

Since independence in 1966

Following the election victory of the opposition BCP under Ntsu Mokhehle in the 1970 election , Prime Minister Jonathan annulled the result, suspended the constitution, declared a state of emergency and temporarily exiled King Moshoeshoe II. Members of the opposition parties and their families were killed or arrested and some of their homes were destroyed. After the announcement of a transitional constitution in 1973 , the remaining members of the opposition proclaimed a government in exile , which, however, remained meaningless.

Foreign policy tensions sparked South Africa's claim in 1982/83 that Lesotho supported the anti-apartheid movement African National Congress (ANC) , which was banned in South Africa . The white minority government of South Africa then imposed sanctions on the kingdom, which is economically heavily dependent on its large neighboring country, and carried out military actions against Lesotho. On December 9, 1982, 42 people were killed in an attack in South Africa . Jonathan's refusal to withdraw support from the ANC and drive it out of the country led to a bloodless military coup under General Justin Metsing Lekhanya on January 20, 1986 after years of domestic political unrest . The national assembly loyal to the government was dissolved, political parties were banned and a six-member military council was formed. King Moshoeshoe II was strengthened with extensive executive and legislative rights and ruled together with the chairman of the military council Lekhanya until he was again driven into exile in 1990.

Letsie III. (2013)

A year after the coronation of King Letsie III. in 1990 Lekhanya was deposed by Colonel Elias Phisoana Ramaema , the new chairman of the military council. This initiated the creation of a new democratic constitution in 1993. The first free elections were won by the BCP under Ntsu Mokhehle. Only one year later, in August 1994, King Letsie III, supported by the military , dissolved parliament and suspended parts of the constitution. The government of the putschists broke up after about a month, however, so that the old government could be reinstated. In 1995, King Moshoeshoe II returned to the throne, but died in a car accident in 1996, leaving his son Letsie III. regained royal dignity on October 31, 1997. The 1998 election was won by the BCP spin-off Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) under the leadership of Bethuel Pakalitha Mosisili . Thanks to majority voting , the party won 79 of the 80 seats in parliament. As a result, rebellious opposition parties paralyzed almost all public life in bloody clashes. Fearing another coup d'état , troops from South Africa and Botswana were called into the country at the request of the Prime Minister to stabilize the situation. After a phase of relaxation and a change in voting rights , the last soldiers were able to leave the country again in 2001. The 2002 elections , which the incumbent Prime Minister Mosisili was able to win again, were recognized by the opposition and a large majority of the population. In the parliamentary elections in 2007 , the LCD reached 62 of the 120 seats under Mosilili, so that it could continue to govern. The 2012 elections resulted in a coalition government under Thomas “Tom” Thabane ( All Basotho Convention ) for the first time .

In June 2014, Thabane suspended the National Assembly to forestall a vote of no confidence by his coalition partner LCD. He deposed the chief of the Lesotho Defense Force (LDF); but this did not leave his office. On August 30, 2014, the LDF tried to overthrow Thabane. A coup could only be averted with the help of foreign states, especially South Africa. The parliamentary elections due for 2017 were brought forward to February 2015.

After Mosisili narrowly won the 2015 election , his government was overthrown by a vote of no confidence in early 2017. After the 2017 elections , Thabane again formed a coalition government made up of four parties. However, Thabane was forced to resign in May 2020 and replaced by his fellow party member Moeketsi Majoro .



The Lesotho Constitution was adopted on April 2, 1993. It defines the state's form of government as a parliamentary monarchy with a bicameral parliament . The minimum age for elections to the National Assembly is 18 years. The separation of powers is also established and an independent judicial system is guaranteed.

The constitution also guarantees human rights , such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press and assembly, freedom of religion, the right to personal freedom, protection against forced labor and the protection of privacy and private property.

In the   2019 Democracy Index of the British magazine  The Economist,  Lesotho ranks 61st out of 167 countries and is therefore considered to be an "incomplete democracy". In the country report  Freedom in the World  2017 by the US  non-governmental organization  Freedom House  , the country's political system is rated as “partially free”.


Moeketsi Majoro

The Prime Minister of Lesotho, Moeketsi Majoro since May 20, 2020 , is the chairman of the government and the cabinet and has executive power. The prime minister is not elected. During the years 1986 to 1993 the office of Prime Minister was suspended; his official business was carried out by the chairman of the military council.

The King, since February 7, 1996 Letsie III. , has almost only a representative function; active participation in political events is prohibited by the constitution. Nevertheless, he is considered part of the executive. The monarchy is hereditary, but according to a traditional law, the Barena Council can reject a minor successor to a deceased king and replace it with another person. The deposition of a king is also possible through this council.

legislative branch

Legislative power in Lesotho rests in the hands of the parliament, which is divided into two chambers. The Senate acts as the upper house , the lower house is the National Assembly .

The Senate consists of 33 members, 22 of whom are tribal chiefs of the country. The majority of these members are descendants of Moshoeshoe I and inherit their seat in the Senate to their descendants. The remaining eleven members of the Senate are appointed by the King on the proposal of the government. The current President of the Senate (as of May 2013) is Letapata Makhaola. According to the Constitution, the main task of the Senate is the revision and review of bills that come from the National Assembly, but also the drafting of laws. The second chamber, the National Assembly, is elected directly by the people in a general, free, equal and secret ballot. A legislative term lasts five years. Since 2007 the lower house has 120 seats, 80 of which are elected by majority and 40 by proportional representation. The 40 seats are given to parties that - in relation to the 120 seats - received a disproportionately large number of MPs according to the majority vote. The speaker of the National Assembly has been Sephiri Motanyane from ABC since 2017.

For the legislative assembly, which was introduced in 1956, women initially had no right to vote. The new constitution of 1960 gave only taxpayers voting rights to the election of district councils, which then elected members of the legislative assembly. This meant that women were effectively without voting rights. On April 30, 1965, elections were held, with universal suffrage for adults. This introduced women's suffrage . The active and passive right to vote for women was confirmed upon independence in 1966.

Since the 2017 elections, the National Assembly has been composed as follows:


The legal system in Lesotho, like that of South Africa, is based on a hybrid of the Anglo-American system of common law and the Roman Dutch Law , a common law of Dutch character that is derived from Roman law . There is also the traditional Laws of Lerotholi , for example in inheritance law .

The country’s judiciary is bipartisan and independent under the Constitution. The highest judicial authority is the Supreme Court, the chairman of which is proposed by the King. Local dishes, predominantly in the cities, and traditional dishes, which mainly exist in rural areas, are subordinate to this.

Foreign policy

Due to its geographic location, the country is very dependent on the political and economic developments in South Africa. Accordingly, for a very long time Lesotho's foreign policy was almost exclusively determined by political relations with its large neighbor. During the apartheid period, Lesotho came under political pressure from the white minority government of South Africa, as political refugees from the ANC had been granted asylum in Lesotho . Since the end of apartheid in South Africa, relations between the two states have been mostly friendly.

Lesotho member of various regional organizations such as the is Development Community for Southern Africa (English: Southern African Development Community , SADC) and the Customs Union of Southern Africa ( Southern African Customs Union, SACU). Furthermore, Lesotho is now a member of the UN , the African Union (AU) and the Commonwealth . All western states have diplomatic relations with Lesotho; however, only a few have a permanent embassy in the country. Germany gave up its embassy in Lesotho at the end of 1994.

Domestic politics

Important policy objectives for the government at the beginning of the 21st century are measures to combat food shortages, high unemployment and AIDS.

Security policy

Soldiers of the 1st Battalion of the Lesotho Defense Force in August 2009

Lesotho spent almost 2.2 percent of its economic output or 53 million US dollars on its armed forces in 2017.

The country's security forces consist of the Lesotho Defense Force (LDF), an army with around 2,100 soldiers, and the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS), the national police force. The Lesotho army reports to the Minister of Defense . From 2002 to 2015, however, the prime minister had the supreme command of the military, as this also held the office of minister for defense and national security. The country’s police authorities report to the Minister of the Interior.

Both the LDF and the police contributed to unrest in the 1990s after the military government was replaced by a democratically elected leadership in 1993. In 1998 troops from South Africa and Botswana invaded Lesotho to pacify the armed forces. LDF and LMPS were involved as adversaries in the state crisis in Lesotho in 2014 .

Administrative division


Distrikt Mafeteng Distrikt Maseru Distrikt Butha-Buthe Distrikt Leribe Distrikt Berea Distrikt Mokhotlong Distrikt Thaba-Tseka Distrikt Quthing Distrikt Mohale’s Hoek Distrikt Qacha’s NekAdministrative division of Lesotho
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Lesotho is divided into ten districts :

District Capital Area
(as of 2016)
Berea Teyateyaneng 002,222 000262,616
Butha-buthe Butha-buthe 001,767 000118,242
Leribe Pilot 002,828 000337,521
Mafeteng Mafeteng 002.119 000178,222
Maseru Maseru 004,279 000519.186
Mohale's Hoek Mohale's Hoek 003,530 000165,590
Mokhotlong Mokhotlong 004,075 000100,442
Qacha's Nek Qacha's Nek 002,349 000074,566
Quthing Quthing 002,916 000115,469
Thaba-Tseka Thaba-Tseka 004,270 000135,347

cities and communes

For the first local elections in Lesotho in 2005, 129 Community Councils were introduced. By far the largest city in Lesotho is Maseru with a population of 330,760 (as of 2016). This means that around 17 percent of the country's population is concentrated in the capital. The 2016 population figures are based on the then census ( the number is unclear for Teyateyaneng ; in 2006 it was the second largest city in the country).

rank city Population
1. Maseru 00330.760 Maseru
2. Maputsoe 00055,541 Leribe
3. Mohale's Hoek 00040,040 Mohale's Hoek
4th Mafeteng 00039,754 Mafeteng
5. Pilot 00038,558 Leribe
6th Butha-buthe 00035,108 Butha-buthe


The Katse dam on Malibamatšo in the Lesotho highlands
Village in Lesotho
Two maloti coin
Ten Maloti Banknote

In terms of per capita income , Lesotho is one of the poorest countries in the world. In 2003, the proportion of the population living on less than one US dollar a day was 43% according to the list of countries with the greatest poverty in the world . The per capita gross domestic product in 2014, adjusted for purchasing power, was around 2900 US dollars, an increase of 4.3% compared to the previous year.

Employment and sources of income

The unemployment rate is given as 28.1% in 2014. Most jobs are in the informal sector and many workers are underemployed. The total number of employees is estimated at 931,000 for 2017, 46.7% of them women.

About 60% of the population is directly involved in agriculture . Mainly maize and sorghum are grown. The livestock industry plays an important role, especially cattle. Lesotho ranks second in the world for mohair production . The vast majority of the country's inhabitants either live from subsistence farming or as migrant workers , primarily in the mines of South Africa, where around 44,000 Basotho were employed in 2012. However, employment opportunities in South Africa have plummeted since the end of the apartheid era there. In the 1980s there were still over 100,000 Lesothic miners in South Africa.

As a result of the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA), a program of the US government that aims to stimulate the economy in Africa through duty-free imports into the USA, the textile industry in Lesotho has been greatly expanded since 2004 through investments by Asian textile companies. Up to 35,000 people work here (as of 2015). The AGOA program was extended until 2025, but Lesotho could be excluded from further funding due to the unstable political situation. The government is investing more in agriculture and tourism.

Around 44,200 people are employed in the public sector (as of 2013).

Numerous important rivers have their source in the highlands of Lesotho, which is why the country has abundant water resources. The Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP), one of the largest of its kind in the world, opened up sources of income for the export of water to South Africa, which supplies its metropolitan areas in the Gauteng province . In addition, most of the electricity required is generated by the LHWP . There is hardly any mining; there are only a few diamond mines . Large diamonds are found there relatively often, such as a 910 carat diamond in 2018  .

Lesotho forms a currency union with Swaziland , Namibia and South Africa , the Common Monetary Area , in which the South African rand acts as the reserve currency and is a recognized currency in all countries. The Loti (plural: Maloti), which has been valid in Lesotho since 1980, is convertible to the rand with a fixed exchange rate of 1: 1. The inflation rate in 2014 was six percent. Lesotho is a member of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) (Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, Republic of South Africa and Botswana ). Lesotho received around 45% of its state income from the SACU in the 2012/2013 financial year.

Foreign trade

Due to the geographic location of the country, Lesotho conducts most of its foreign trade with South Africa and the other SACU states. The country covers around 89.5% of its import requirements from the SACU countries, of which around 99% comes from South Africa, and around 7% from Asia. The country's main import goods are food , building materials, vehicles, machinery, IT equipment and pharmaceutical products. The high expenditure on imports is offset by relatively low income from exports. The most important export goods are or were textiles and clothing, shoes, food and feed, sheep's wool, mohair and live animals. These goods were mainly purchased by SACU (53.9%) and North America (45.6%). The export to Germany in 2013 was around 1.7 million euros, the import from Germany around 6.2 million euros. The export of goods with the USA in 2014 was around 361 million US dollars, while imports from the USA amounted to 2.4 million euros.

Overall, due to the significant trade deficit , the foreign debt is considerable. Lesotho must therefore seek economic support from various international sources, such as the United States, the World Bank and the European Union . Until the end of apartheid in neighboring South Africa, the country received more development aid per capita than any other country in the world to set an example against apartheid - but at the same time some of the donor countries were doing business with South Africa. Official development assistance to Lesotho in 2013 was $ 320 million, including $ 151 million from the US and $ 50 million from the European Union .

It is estimated that the illegal export of marijuana is Lesotho's third largest source of income. In 2018, Lesotho was the first African country to announce that it would export legally grown marijuana.


Basotho-Rondavel (round hut)

Since the 1980s, Lesotho has endeavored to develop the country more for tourism. The focus here is on Maseru and the Maloti Mountains with their diverse hiking and riding opportunities. In 2010 there were around 400,000 tourists, 93 percent of whom came from South Africa.

Major tourist destinations in the country are:

  • the capital Maseru with numerous hotels and a casino
  • the Drakensberg and the Sani Pass in the northeast of the country
  • the Sehlabathebe National Park in the southeast of the country
  • the place Malealea with the surrounding landscape in the district of Mafeteng
  • Thaba Bosiu , the old Basotho fortress east of Maseru
  • the Katse dam , the second highest dam in Africa, with its new visitor center and guided tours through the inside of the dam
  • the Afri-Ski ski area in the east of the Butha-Buthe district

Key figures

All GDP values ​​are given in US dollars ( purchasing power parity ).

year 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
(purchasing power parity)
0.65 billion 1.01 billion 1.50 billion 2.10 billion 2.68 billion 3.47 billion 3.73 billion 4.02 billion 4.33 billion 4.50 billion 4.84 billion 5.27 billion 5.63 billion 5.85 billion 6.13 billion 6.35 billion 6.63 billion 6.96 billion
GDP per capita
(purchasing power parity)
512 736 935 1,131 1,440 1,841 1.994 2.144 2,301 2,385 2,560 2,780 2,963 3,068 3,208 3,296 3,425 3,581
GDP growth
−0.8% 3.3% 5.2% 2.8% 4.9% 3.1% 4.4% 5.0% 5.5% 3.1% 6.3% 6.7% 4.9% 2.2% 3.0% 2.5% 3.1% 3.1%
(in percent)
19.6% 15.0% 12.0% 9.7% 6.1% 3.6% 6.3% 9.2% 10.7% 5.8% 3.3% 6.0% 5.5% 5.0% 4.6% 4.3% 6.2% 5.6%
Public debt
(as a percentage of GDP)
... ... 18% 62% 88% 49% 51% 51% 45% 35% 31% 33% 35% 37% 37% 41% 35% 35%

Government spending

The state budget in 2009 comprised expenditures equivalent to 675.4 million US dollars . This was set against income of the equivalent of 563.4 million US dollars. This results in a budget deficit of 8.0% of gross domestic product (GDP).

In 2006, the share of government expenditure (as a percentage of GDP) was as follows:


The geographic location and the economic framework of the country are the main reasons for a poorly developed transport system. The mostly inhospitable and difficult to move terrain in the eastern plateaus and in the Drakensberg is in many places not developed or is difficult to access. An exception are paved roads that were built as part of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project.

Air traffic

The Lesotho Airways joined since the 1970s from an airport in the immediate vicinity Maserus the country with cities such as Johannesburg , Gaborone , Manzini and Maputo . In 1985, Moshoeshoe I. International Airport , located 19 kilometers south of Maseru, was inaugurated. At that time, the airline also had a good, extensive domestic route network that was operated with small fan guns. With increasing road construction in the mountain regions, however, it became largely obsolete.

Since the bankruptcy in 1997, as a result of a failed privatization, the country no longer has its own national airline, so that the only international airport in the country is only served by the South African airline South African Airways or South African Airlink - mainly OR Tambo International Airport near Johannesburg. From April 2016, the Lesotho company Maluti Sky also flew once a day between OR Tambo and Moshoeshoe I. before ceasing its flight operations on May 1, 2017.


Lesotho does not have its own railway system. The only railway line in the country runs from South Africa over the Caledon River to the capital Maseru and thus connects the city to the South African railway network . However, this route is only intended for freight traffic. Lesotho's rail network is only 1.6 kilometers long. The track width is 1067 mm ( cape track ).

Road network and car traffic

In Lesotho, as in all of southern Africa, there is left-hand traffic . Local public transport is poorly developed in Lesotho. Since there are only a few bus routes in the country that are only operated irregularly, the country's residents mainly use private minibus shared taxis for transportation . These form the backbone of public transportation. They usually drive fixed routes and are stopped with a show of hands, getting on and off is possible at any location. The entire road network in the country is about 6000 kilometers long, of which about 1000 kilometers are asphalted and paved. Lesotho has a well-developed and paved north-south main axis in the densely populated western part, starting in the south at the Makhaleng Bridge border crossing near Mohale's Hoek via Mafeteng, Maseru, Hlotse to Butha-Buthe in the north. With the construction of dams in the Maloti Mountains, asphalt roads were also built there. The maximum permissible speed is 80 km / h on country roads and 50 km / h in built-up areas. Due to the different vehicles that are on the road - from ox carts to trucks - poor road safety and a lack of alcohol controls, road traffic in Lesotho is very accident prone.

Entry requirements

Entry to Lesotho is possible for citizens of the European Union and Switzerland with a tourist visa for a stay of up to three months . The passport must be valid for at least six months upon entry. If necessary, a return ticket with a fixed return date as well as proof of sufficient financial means for the duration of the stay must be presented. For travelers arriving from countries with an increased risk of yellow fever , proof of appropriate vaccinations must be presented upon entry.


Village and urban life

Mokorotlo , the traditional Basotho hat, on a Lesotho license plate
Mosotho horsemen, dressed in traditional woolen blankets

Due to the largely homogeneous ethnic origin of the population, Lesotho is shaped by the cultural and traditional customs of the Basotho. The Basotho have developed a unique culture over the centuries. They live as one of the few African peoples in a mountainous landscape, which made many special features necessary in their daily life. The national culture is called Sesotho like the national language .

The traditional center of the Sesotho culture is the village. The villages are often located in the middle altitudes of the mountains in order to protect themselves from flooding of the river valleys and are characterized by agriculture. Every village has a fixed order with a head ( morena ) , similar to the European mayor , who reports to the respective chief of the region. The villages consist of many huts, which (if they are round huts) are called rondavels , which were built for different functions, for example as a sleeping hut, warehouse or kitchen. Around these huts are the Basotho fields where, for example, corn , wheat and beans are grown. The head of the village is responsible for distributing the fields to the individual families in the village. Matters that affect the whole village are dealt with in a pitso (German: the call). This is a gathering at which all adult villagers are allowed to attend and speak.

The traditional, frequently worn clothing includes the mokorotlo , a pointed hat, and woolen blankets , which are called kobo in Sesotho and are decorated with artistic patterns. The hats are cone-shaped, made of woven straw and are held together at the top with an elaborate knot. The shape of the hat was modeled on the Qiloane rock near Thaba Bosiu . The mokorotlo is the national symbol of the country today. It was also found on the then national flag of the country until 1986 and is also shown on the national flag that has been in effect since October 2006. It is also shown on all license plates in the country.

Even more widespread and more common in everyday life are the traditional Basotho blankets, which are still worn by many people in the country today. Around 1860, Chief Moshoeshoe I bought one of these woolen blankets for the first time from traveling English traders and wore it regularly, whereupon more and more Basotho dressed with these capes. Previously, animal fur was mainly used as clothing. Many Basotho wear these blankets all year round as they protect against cold and rain as well as heat. The blankets are worn with different patterns, the most popular of which are the corn on the cob as a symbol of fertility and the crown.

An important animal in the Sesotho culture is the pony . The traditional Basotho pony is the main means of transport in the mountains. The ponies were first brought to Lesotho from the Cape Colony in the 19th century .

In contrast to the traditional, village culture, there is urban life, which is shaped by western influences. In Maseru and at the University in Roma in particular, there is a clear deviation from conventional values.


The media landscape is manageable according to the size of the country. Lesotho News Agency (LENA) acts as the news agency . There is only one national television station , Lesotho Television , which is state-run. In addition to Radio Lesotho , which is also the state radio station , there have been five other private stations since the broadcasting reform in 1998, some of which can only be received in certain parts of the country. The radio is the most important mass medium in Lesotho because the printing costs for newspapers are very high and the majority of the population cannot afford a television set. In addition to the national radio stations, television and radio programs from South Africa can also be received, some of which are broadcast in the Sesotho language.

The press is also limited to a small number of newspapers published in both Sesotho and English. The oldest newspaper in Lesotho, Leselinyana la Lesotho, has been published since 1863 and is published by the Lesotho Evangelical Church in Southern Africa . Lesotho Times and Sunday Express appear in print and have websites. The Post also appears online. English-language newspapers from South Africa are also available.

In the 2017 press freedom ranking published by Reporters Without Borders , Lesotho ranked 68th out of 180 countries.


The spectrum of music created in Lesotho ranges from chants that are assigned to certain traditional ceremonies to almost western-style pop music . Popular and quite numerous are famo bands with vocals , accordion and drum , and occasionally also electric bass , which combine elements of shepherd music with their ostinato melodies with the beat of modern music. The accordion is borrowed from the music of the Boers in South Africa. The group Tau ea Matsekha, German: "Lion of Matsekha", played a track with Paul Simon on his album Graceland in 1985 . Traditional instruments include the mamokhorong , a single-string violin that was also played by Khoikhoi around 1600 , and the lesiba .

The band Sankomota (formerly Uhuru ) was extremely successful in Lesotho from 1976 to 1993. They played modern rock music with jazz and soul elements as well as African influences. The group was also known in South Africa. Many of her texts were sung in English, isiXhosa or isiZulu . Sankomota was also able to achieve some minor successes in Great Britain . In the 1980s she went on a tour of Germany. In total, the band released six albums.

Many Basotho have remarkable singing skills. In church services, for example, the congregation often sings with several voices, led by women's choirs. The schools also sing at a high level.


Thomas Mofolo wrote the book Chaka , also called Chaka Zulu , in the early 20th century . It describes the life path of the powerful and bloodthirsty Zulu king Shaka . Mofolo wrote the book in his native Sesotho. Since then it has been translated into many languages, including German. Other authors, including 'Masechele Caroline Ntšeliseng Khaketla , published books on Sesotho.

public holidays

The public holidays in Lesotho are:

date German name English name Remarks
January 1st New Year New Year's Day
March 11 Moshoeshoe day Moshoeshoe's Day Anniversary of the death of the state's founder and head Moshoeshoe I.
March or April Good Friday and Easter Monday Good Friday, Easter Monday  
1st of May Labor Day Workers' Day
25. May Heroes day Heroes' Day Remembrance day for the Lesothic participants in the two world wars
17th July Birthday of the king King's Birthday Birthday of the current King Letsie III.
4th of October independence Day Independence Day
25./26. December Christmas Christmas


By far the most popular sport in the country is football . Since many good players have left the country for South Africa because of the better living situation, the national soccer league is only of local importance. The greatest international success of the Lesotho national soccer team , which has been a member of the international association FIFA since 1964 , was the participation in the final of the COSAFA Cup, a championship in southern Africa, in 2000. At the World and African Championships , the team, called Likuena (Sesotho for "crocodiles") by the fans, regularly fails in the first qualifying rounds and has never qualified for a final round.

Other popular sports are judo , taekwondo , boxing , long-distance running and horse riding, as well as netball , a basketball variant in school sports for girls . The greatest international success of Lesotho athletes was winning the gold medal at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur by the marathon runner Thabiso Paul Moqhali and the bronze medal at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester for the bantamweight boxer Ezekiel Letuka .

Lesotho has participated in nine Summer Olympics since 1972 , but has not yet achieved any medals there. The best placement by a Lesothic athlete was Thabiso Moqhali's 16th place in the marathon at the Sydney 2000 Summer Games .

After a break of several years, the Roof of Africa motorcycle rally took place again in Lesotho in 2007 and is considered to be one of the toughest enduro races in the world. The rally has been held annually since 2009.


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Web links

Wiktionary: Lesotho  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Lesotho  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikivoyage: Lesotho  travel guide
Wikimedia Atlas: Lesotho  - geographical and historical maps

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This version was added to the list of excellent articles on October 7, 2006 .

Coordinates: 30 °  S , 28 °  E