Lesotho is a landlocked country completely surrounded by South
Africa. The settlement area of the Basotho tribe, which dominates
Lesotho, was increasingly restricted by the Dutch Voortrekkers. King
Moshoeshoe I began allying with the British Cape Colony in 1843, at
the same time creating a tribal federation centered around
Butha-Buthe. Although the western territories were lost in the war
of 1858, it managed to remain free of the Boer republics as
Basutoland from 1868-70 and by being placed under British protection
in 1884. Young men in particular hired themselves out as guest
workers in the mines around Johannesburg. The first elections in
1965 were followed by independence a year later.
Chief Jonathan ruled autocratically from 1970-86, then was removed in a coup led by Justin Lekhanya, after which the exiled King Moshoeshoe II (d. 1996) became head of state again. As in all black African states, there was a phase of political instability after independence, with timely military intervention from South Africa in the 1990s preventing the massacres that were common elsewhere. From 2007 to 2012 there was political unrest again.
Compared to surrounding South Africa, Lesotho is poorer, but also often more original, although many traditions were lost through labor migration in the last century.
Hikes are possible in the rural mountain regions. Guided tours, some on hardy Besotho ponies, can be found sporadically. The tame animals can be ridden even without experience. You should (2016) calculate 600 LSL for half a day and 900 LSL for a whole day. Additional pack animals are half the cost.
Maseru – capital
The mountains of the border region are part of the World Natural
Heritage as part of the Maloti-Drakensberg Park.
In the Maloti Mountains (called Drakensberg in South Africa) you can find:
in the Mahlasela Valley is the small ski resort Afriski. With five lifts planned, it is set to become the largest ski area in Africa. Currently the few ski tourists come almost exclusively from South Africa; the ski season runs from June 1st to September 1st. There are 320 beds in different categories, from backpacker dormitories (2018: 170 LSL in summer, 310 LSL in winter) to chalets (605 or 1155 LSL per person).
the Sehlabathebe National Park (29° 53′ 56″ S 29° 7′ 16″ E), which has an average altitude of over 2400m. There is the Heritage Lodge, opened in 2015, which includes a campsite at the former Jonathan's Lodge. Further accommodation in the villages outside the park. The wildly romantic landscape and fauna, especially Cape and bearded vultures, are worth seeing.
In the Butha-Buthe District, at altitudes around 2600 m, Lesotho's only piece of forest is located in the Ts'ehlanyane National Park (29° 0′ 0″ S 28° 25′ 0″ E), entrance fee 40 LSL + 10 per car. Shared taxis are available from Butha-Buthe. Ts'ehlanyane is the local name for the mountain bamboo Thamnocalamus tessellatus. Roe deer and eland are present, as are the rodents Myotomys sloggetti (“ice rat”). Good hiking trails are marked. Guides can be hired at the entrance. You should allow 2-3 days for the 39 km long path to the Bogong reserve. Maliba Lodge offers upscale accommodation.
The Katse dam (29° 20′ 13″ S 28° 30′ 22″ E), which has been damming the Malibamat'so downstream since 1996, has created a beautiful lake, the water masses of which press on the rock in such a way that seismic activity occurs. However, the project, co-financed by Washington's World Bank financial interests with South Africa, has improved electricity supply, always precarious in Lesotho. The living conditions of the indigenous farmers who were displaced in exchange for compensation have deteriorated on the barren land. The botanical garden of Katse (29° 20′ 3″ S 28° 28′ 54″ E) was set up to preserve plant species endangered by the damming (e.g. Aloe polyphylla) and to set up a seed collection for traditional medicinal plants.
The Bokong Nature Reserve (29° 4′ 9″ S 28° 25′ 34″ E) is a protected area in the headwaters of Bokong and Lepaqoa. The most famous is the Lepaqoa Waterfall, which regularly freezes into a block in winter. There are two stone round huts nearby where you can stay overnight, otherwise you have to camp. The Visitor's Center is about 1½ km below the Mafika-Lisiu Pass (3090 m) on the tarred A25.
Near the town of Nazareth (Maseru District) in the west of the country is Ha Baroana (29° 21′ 46″ S 27° 47′ 24″ E) with ancient rock carvings. The last 7 km are on rough slopes.
Kome cave dwellings (Ha Kome Caves).
Most Western Europeans – including Germans, Austrians, Czechs and Swiss – do not need a visa for up to 14 days to enter the country. An exception applies to citizens of Liechtenstein who require a visa. The fees are a hefty US$150 for one-time entry and US$250 for multiple entries. (As of September 2022)
Consulate General, 45-47 Rue de Lausanne, 1201 Geneva. Tel.: +41 22 906 10 50. Open: Mon.-Fri. 9:00 a.m. - 12:45 p.m., 2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. last change: Sep. 2022infoedit
It has been possible to apply for an eVisa since 2017. This is also available for tourist stays of 15-44 days.
For minors traveling with only one parent, the other parent's consent is required. The parents' marriage certificate and birth certificate should also be carried with you. (This also applies to South Africa.)
Duty free quantities
400 cigarettes or 50 cigars
1 liter alcoholic (without distinguishing strength)
25000 Rand or currency equivalent in cash
There are no direct flights from Europe. It is therefore advisable to use the airport in Johannesburg for your journey.
Maseru has an airport, although there are a few connections to South Africa (Jo'burg). The other landing sites are not served commercially.
There is no railway in Lesotho. There are a few slow trains from the South African border town of Ladybrand to Bloemfontein.
There are bus connections to all major cities in South Africa, especially to Johannesburg and Bloemfontein, although you usually have to change in the latter.
In 2018, VaalMaseru runs twice on Sundays and once on Thursdays from the Jo'burg area directly to the border villages of Ficksburg, Van Rooyen and Maseru.
Interbrand runs daily from Durban to Ladybrand.
It can make sense to rent a car for a longer term in South Africa and use it to drive to Lesotho. It should be noted that some rental companies charge a few hundred rand extra for the relevant permission letter, and you should always rent a four-wheel drive vehicle. Liability insurance must be presented or taken out at the border.
There is left-hand traffic.
There are thirteen border crossings with South Africa. Handling is usually problem-free.
The easiest way is via the border crossing at Maseru, which is open 24 hours. Traffic jams occur on weekends.
Via Dewtsdrop to Van Rooyens Gate (29° 45′ 24″ S 27° 6′ 31″ E). From there to Mafeteng on the A2.
Ficksburg Bridge / Maputsoe (28° 52′ 58″ S 27° 53′ 19″ E)
Caledonspoort (28° 41′ 42″ S 28° 14′ 1″ E), open 6am-10pm. Continue to Butha-Buthe on the A1.
The Monantsa Pass (28° 34′ 44″ S 28° 38′ 14″ E) is very remote and is open 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.
From the south towards Durban it goes through the Mkhomatzi Wilderness Area over the Sani Pass (29° 35' 5" S 29° 17' 8" E) at almost 2800m. 4x4 four-wheel drive vehicles are required. Right at the border you can stay overnight at the Sani Mountain Lodge and the Sani Tops campsite. It is also advertised that the “highest pub in Africa” is located here
From the South African Matatiele to the border at:
Ramatselitso (30° 3′ 1″ S 28° 56′ 1″ E). From there 36 km northeast to Sehlabathebe National Park.
Qachas Nek (30° 7′ 49″ S 28° 41′ 6″ E), open only 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Continue to Seforong on the A4, only with 4WD.
In the country by bus or “shared taxi”, possibly minibuses that leave
The prices of the (still) state-run LFBSC, which takes two conductors per bus, are heavily subsidized. Rural towns are served. With the planned privatization in 2019, like everywhere else in the world, prices are likely to rise and the already mediocre quality to fall.
On the street
In Lesotho, traffic drives on the left. Maximum speed 50 km/h in urban areas, 80 km/h on country roads. Alcohol: 0.5‰, which is often ignored. Lesotho requires international driving licenses of the Geneva model in addition to the local driving license; police checks are frequent.
Gas stations open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and usually have a lunch break from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., but are open on Sunday afternoons. Gasoline is a little more expensive than in South Africa, but the quality is worse (significantly lower defacto octane content). In mid-2018, gasoline cost 11.6-11.7 LSL, depending on the octane number, and diesel cost around 1 LSL more.
Most intercity roads are dirt tracks that are in rather poor condition. All-wheel drive makes sense everywhere.
Well developed are:
A1 the northeastern main route: Maseru ↔ Maputsoe ↔ Butha-Buthe ↔ Oxbow ↔ Mokhotlong, a total of approx. 114 km (from Mokhotlong a “jeep track” that can only be managed with four-wheel drive leads over the Sani Pass to Natal)
A2 the southeastern main route: Maseru ↔ Mahale's Hoek ↔ Moyeni-Qacha's Nek ↔ (Cape Province)
A3 to Mohale Dam, approx. 91 km from Masru; further into the central mountain range to Marakabei and Mantsonyane
A5 Maseru ↔ Mazenod ↔ Roma, approx. 35 km
A8 to Katse Dam approx. 216 km from Maseru
In addition to the official language, English, Sotho, Zulu and Xhosa are also spoken.
Opening times: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., sometimes shorter on Saturdays;
Grocery stores also open late in the evening.
Authorities: Mon.-Fri. 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., post office also on Saturday mornings, banks usually an hour shorter.
The South African supermarket chain Shoprite is well represented in the cities.
The national currency is the loti (LSL; Maloti), which has the same
value as the South African rand, whose notes are often accepted without
Exchange rate: € 1 = 18.4 LSL (March 2021)
There is no specifically Lesotho cuisine.
The local beer brand is Maluti, the brewery belongs to the American SABMiller group (Anheuser-Busch).
Since Lesotho is not yet connected to the large tourist flows, there is also little capacity when it comes to hotels. The few larger hotels are often fully booked by government employees traveling on business. In general, you get significantly less comfort for comparable money than in South Africa. For a small room in a simple hotel/lodge with a private bathroom you can expect to pay around €40-50.
State holidays are Jan. 1: New Year, March 1: King Moshoeshoe I
Memorial Day, May 1, May 25: Africa Day, July 17: King's Birthday (of
Letsie III) and Oct. 4: Independence Day.
There are also the religious festivals: Good Friday (March 29, 2024), Easter Monday (April 1, 2024), Ascension Day (May 9, 2024) and two Christmas holidays.
“Lesotho has a high level of violent crime. Travelers should be
particularly careful in the capital, Maseru. It is recommended to avoid
walks after dark, cross-country journeys in the dark and parking
vehicles on unlit streets if possible." When driving, the doors
should be locked; people often reach through the window at intersections
or break the windows (" “crash and grab”).
Drug offenses and child prostitution (under 14) are punished harshly, and those convicted face high prison sentences and fines. Homosexual acts are no longer a criminal offense, but are not tolerated in public.
When taking photos, please note that royal palaces, government buildings, airports and other public buildings, as well as military vehicles and uniformed people are not allowed to be photographed.
Tap water is not suitable for drinking anywhere in the country. Water
purification tablets should be carried.
About 24% of 15-49 year olds are HIV positive; This makes Lesotho one of the countries with the highest HIV prevalence in the world.
Lesotho Post advertises that it can deliver letters to South Africa
in two working days, while mail to Central Europe should take five days.
All telephone numbers have eight digits. Landlines start with a 2 and cell phone numbers start with 5 or 6. Telephone calls only work reliably in the Lowlands.
It is questionable whether it is worth buying a SIM card for a short-term stay. If you have a South African one, roaming is not a problem. The providers are Vodacom Lesotho and Econet Lesotho, both with minority state ownership. Prices are high despite poor coverage. Prepaid top-up cards are available with 5, 10 or 20 LSL.
Maseru became a test area for large-scale 5G expansion in 2019. Transfers have been possible using the EcoCash system since 2018.
There is a state television station and several FM radio stations in the Maseru region, some of which are purely church stations.
In rural areas there is often no electricity or running water.
The Kingdom of Lesotho lies
between 29 and 30 degrees south latitude and between 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 1,106 kilometers with its only neighboring country. It
borders South Africa's 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 plateau called the Highveld (called the Lowlands because of its relative location within the country). It is the main settlement area of the country and consists mostly of sandstone. The Lowlands are about 1400 to 1700 meters above sea level. The landscape is characterized by table mountains and river valleys. There is also the capital Maseru.
The eastern plateaus and mountains (highlands), on the other hand, are partly 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, beginning in the southwest and ending in the north, the country is traversed by the Drakensberg Mountains (called Maloti in Lesotho). The highest mountain in the country and in all of southern Africa is the Thabana Ntlenyana at 3482 metres.
The lowest point in the country is at the confluence of the Oranje (called the Senqu in Lesotho) and the Makhaleng at about 1390 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 being over 1800 meters.
The two major South African rivers Orange and Caledon have their source in Lesotho. Like other rivers in Lesotho, they have formed deep canyons. Numerous waterfalls are found on the ledges of the basalt rocks that make up the Drakensberg Mountains, of which the Maletsunyane Waterfall at Semonkong is the highest uninterrupted waterfall in southern Africa at around 192 metres. The floor of the plateaus at the transition to the Highveld in the west consists of soft sandstone. For this reason and also because of overpopulation and excessive demands on the soil - only about eleven percent of the country's area can be used for agriculture - these suffer particularly badly from soil erosion here.
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 energy and water supply projects. As part of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, construction of several dams has begun, the largest of which is the Katse dam.
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 often gets very cold and snow can fall in the higher elevations in the east. However, it is also sunny during the day in winter, and the country has an average of around 300 sunny days throughout the year. In the summer months between November and March it is mostly hot in Lesotho. There are thunderstorms on about 100 days a year, mostly in summer. Due to the altitude, temperatures can vary greatly 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. Snowfall is possible all year round in the high mountains of the Drakensberg. About 85% of annual precipitation - the national average is about 600 to 800 mm - falls during the summer, which is why the landscape is mostly parched during the dry winter months.
There are few trees in the entire country.
These are mainly limited to locations in sheltered valleys or
plantations. The most common tree species are eucalyptus, acacia
and, in the villages, peach trees. In the higher elevations of the
country, willows are found in the river valleys. Furthermore, many
types of aloe stand out. The spiral aloe (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 cosmea, zinnia and tagetes are quite
common. Some plant species, such as the latter two, have been
brought to the country from Central and South America.
The fauna is characterized by smaller animals. The largest wild mammal is the roebuck (Pelea capreolus, Sesotho: letsa), which is almost the size of a deer. Birds such as storks, ibis, herons and vultures, including the rare bearded vulture, are striking. A white stork that had been ringed at Rossitten in East Prussia was found in what is now Lesotho in the 1920s. Smaller birds include weaver birds and the nectar-sucking malachite sunbird. 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. The domestic animals are mainly 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 mostly basaltic rocks that were formed about 180 million years ago by volcanism that was widespread in the southern hemisphere. The volcanic forces broke through the existing sedimentary cover of the main Karoo basin and created further uplift in the edge area of this zone. The flatter areas, especially in the western parts of the country, consist mainly of sandstones, which are quarried in several places for regional and South African needs.
The mountainous region of Lesotho was founded around 25,000 BC. Settled in the 1st century BC by the San, a hunter-gatherer people. Of the numerous cave and rock paintings that these peoples left behind in southern Africa, around 5,000 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 entered southern Africa and settled as farmers and shepherds. Over the next few centuries, the area that is now Lesotho was settled by the Bantu from the north. The San, who had previously lived there, were increasingly pushed out by the Basotho and related Tswana groups from around the 11th century onwards and are no longer native to these regions of South Africa and Lesotho. From the 14th century onwards, the Basotho settlement area encompassed large parts of today's South African Free State province and the western part of today's Lesotho, with the settlement center being on the fertile banks of the Caledon. The Bantu lived there in small communities mainly from agriculture and livestock breeding, although the scarce usable land repeatedly led to unrest among neighboring tribes.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the Zulu King Shaka continued to expand his empire. The area where the Basotho tribes lived was to follow next. This was the dark time of the Lifaqane (English: the times of need), in which predatory hordes terrorized the population. There was a famine so severe that cannibalism occurred.
In fierce conflicts, the Basotho, united and led by Moshoeshoe I, who was appointed morena in 1820, managed to defend themselves against the onslaught of the Zulu and secure their land. Moshoeshoe built forts in Butha-Buthe and Thaba Bosiu, where he offered shelter to many refugees. Through clever negotiations, he secured the favor and trust of neighboring tribes and thus expanded his area of influence. He is therefore often referred to as Moshoeshoe the Great and is considered the founder of the Basotho nation. In foreign policy he was supported by the French missionary Eugène Casalis.
From 1830 onwards the Boers advanced in search of land for new settlements and crossed the Vaal for the first time. As more and more Voortrekkers moved northeast as a result of tensions between Boers and British at the Cape in the so-called Great Trek between 1836 and 1838, the Europeans clashed with Moshoeshoe's troops. Soldiers from the newly founded Orange Free State pushed further into the Basotho settlement area, prompting Chief Moshoeshoe to appeal to the British for protection. In 1843 a protection treaty was signed between the Basotho and the British Cape Colony, but this was dissolved in 1859 in order to relieve strained British relations with the Boer Republics. The Moshoeshoe Empire 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 Basotho were finally defeated, the British intervened because they feared the Boer states would expand too much and made the remaining country a British colony in 1868 as Basutoland. However, Moshoeshoe managed to ensure the autonomy of his empire through skillful diplomacy. A year after his death in 1870, autonomy was lost and Basutoland was annexed to the Cape Colony.
The Basotho people under the new chief Letsie I were not granted
representation in the Parliament of the Cape Colony, and rebellions
against the British broke out. This led to all Basotho firearms being
confiscated. The fight against 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 again placed
directly under British administration in 1884, this time as a crown
When the Union of South Africa was founded in 1910, Basutoland, as well as Bechuanaland (today: Botswana) and Swaziland (today: Eswatini), refused to be incorporated into the new independent state. Today they form the group of BLS states. In 1938, the British government passed an administrative reform that drastically reduced the number of tribal chiefs and their power. This and the structural changes within the country, mainly urbanization and better educational opportunities, led to a significant loss of influence of the royal family and the chiefs over the following decades. After the Second World War, in which several thousand soldiers from Basutoland took part on the Allied side, the desire for independence grew and led to the founding 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 BNP narrowly won the following elections in 1965 and led Basutoland to independence a year later with the new name Lesotho. The constitutional monarchy was chosen as the form of government, and BNP chairman Leabua Jonathan became Lesotho's first prime minister.
After the 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 drove
King Moshoeshoe II into exile. Members of opposition parties and their
families were killed or arrested and some of their homes were destroyed.
After the announcement of an interim constitution in 1973, the remaining
opposition members proclaimed a government in exile, which, however,
Foreign policy tensions were triggered in 1982/83 by South Africa's claim that Lesotho supported the anti-apartheid movement African National Congress (ANC), which was banned in South Africa. South Africa's white minority government then imposed sanctions on the kingdom, which was 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 by South Africa. Jonathan's refusal to withdraw support from the ANC and expel it from the country led to a bloodless military coup under General Justin Metsing Lekhanya on January 20, 1986, after years of domestic unrest. The pro-government National Assembly was dissolved, parties were banned and a six-member military council was formed. King Moshoeshoe II was strengthened with extensive executive and legislative powers and ruled together with the chairman of the military council Lekhanya until he was driven into exile again in 1990.
One 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. Just a year later, in August 1994, King Letsie III, supported by the military, dissolved parliament and suspended parts of the constitution. However, the putschists' government fell apart after about a month, 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. received back his royal dignity on October 31, 1997. The 1998 election was won by the BCP splinter Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) under the leadership of Bethuel Pakalitha Mosisili. Thanks to majority voting, the party won 79 of the 80 parliamentary seats. Rebel opposition parties then paralyzed almost all public life in bloody clashes. Fearing another coup, 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 the electoral law, the last soldiers were able to leave the country again in 2001. The 2002 elections, which incumbent Prime Minister Mosisili won again, were recognized by the opposition and a large majority of the population. In the 2007 parliamentary elections, the LCD under Mosilili won 62 of the 120 seats, allowing it to 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 no-confidence vote by his coalition partner LCD. He deposed the head of the Lesotho Defense Force (LDF); but he did not leave his office. On August 30, 2014, the LDF attempted to overthrow Thabane. A coup could only be averted with the help of foreign states, especially South Africa. The parliamentary elections due in 2017 were then brought forward to February 2015.
After Mosisili narrowly won the 2015 election, his government was toppled by a vote of no confidence in early 2017. After the 2017 elections, Thabane again formed a coalition government consisting of four parties. However, Thabane was forced to resign in May 2020 and replaced by his party colleague Moeketsi Majoro. In October 2022, entrepreneur Sam Matekane was elected as the new Prime Minister as a political outsider after the general election.
The Constitution of Lesotho was adopted on April 2, 1993. It defines
the country'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 justice 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.
The Prime Minister of Lesotho is the chairman of the government and
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
The king, Letsie III since February 7, 1996, has almost only a representative function; He is prohibited by the constitution from actively participating in political events. Nevertheless, he is considered part of the executive branch. The monarchy is hereditary, but according to a traditional law, the Barena Council can reject a minor successor to a deceased king and replace him with another person. The deposition of a king is also possible through this council.
Legislative power in Lesotho lies in the hands of the Parliament,
which is divided into two chambers. The upper house is the Senate and
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 pass their Senate seats to their descendants. The remaining eleven members of the Senate are appointed by the king on the proposal of the government. The current Senate President (as of May 2013) is Letapata Makhaola. The main task of the Senate according to the constitution 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 period lasts five years. Since 2007, the lower house has had 120 seats, 80 of which are elected by majority voting and 40 by proportional representation. The 40 seats will be awarded to parties that - based on the 120 seats - have received a disproportionately large number of representatives under majority voting. The speaker of the National Assembly has been Sephiri Motanyane from the ABC since 2017.
Initially, women did not have the right to vote in the legislative assembly, which was introduced in 1956. The new constitution of 1960 granted only tax-paying persons voting rights for the election of district councils, which then elected members of the legislative assembly. This meant that women were effectively without voting rights. Elections were held on April 30, 1965, with universal adult suffrage. This introduced women's suffrage. Active and passive women's suffrage was confirmed at independence in 1966.
Since the 2017 elections, the National Assembly has been composed as follows:
51 seats: All Basotho Convention
30 seats: Democratic Congress
11 seats: Lesotho Congress for Democracy
9 seats: Alliance of Democrats
6 seats: Movement for Economic Change
5 seats: Basotho National Party
3 seats: Popular Front for Democracy
1 seat each: five other parties
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 with Dutch characteristics that is derived from Roman
law. There is also the traditional law of the Laws of Lerotholi, for
example in inheritance law.
According to the constitution, the country's judiciary is non-partisan and independent. The highest judicial authority is the Supreme Court, whose chairman is recommended by the king. Subordinated are local dishes, mainly in cities, and traditional dishes, which exist mainly in rural areas.
Due to its geographical 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 determined almost
exclusively by political relations with its large neighbor. During the
apartheid era, Lesotho came under political pressure from South Africa's
white minority government because political refugees from the ANC were
granted asylum in Lesotho. Since the end of apartheid in South Africa,
relations between the two countries have been mostly friendly.
Lesotho is a member of various regional organizations such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Southern African Customs Union (SACU). Furthermore, Lesotho is now a member of the UN, the African Union (AU) and the Commonwealth, among others. All Western states maintain diplomatic relations with Lesotho; However, only a few have a permanent embassy headquarters in the country. Germany gave up its embassy in Lesotho at the end of 1994.
Important government policy objectives at the beginning of the 21st century include measures to combat food shortages, high unemployment and AIDS.
Lesotho spent almost 2.2 percent of its economic output, or $53
million, 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 is subordinate to the Minister of Defense. However, from 2002 to 2015, the Prime Minister had overall command of the military, as he 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. The LDF and LMPS were involved as opponents in the state crisis in Lesotho in 2014.