Lesotho, Africa's 'kingdom in the sky'

2015-02-27 12:29

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Maseru - Basic facts about the southern African mountain state of Lesotho, which holds early legislative elections on Saturday:

- GEOGRAPHY: Lesotho has the particularity of being not only landlocked but being also surrounded on all sides by the territory of just one other state, South Africa. At 30 355 square kilometre, it is the same size as Belgium.

The terrain is mountainous and the climate continental, with cold, dry winters and hot summers. It styles itself as the "Kingdom in the Sky".

- POPULATION: 2 074 million in 2013.

- CAPITAL: Maseru.

- LANGUAGES: English and Sesotho.

- RELIGION: 80% Christian.

- HISTORY: In colonial times, the country was a British protectorate known as Basutoland. It achieved independence in 1966 as a constitutional monarchy under King Moshoeshoe II, with Chief Leabua Jonathan as prime minister.

In 1970, when elections showed that an opposition party had defeated him, Jonathan suspended the constitution and the king went into exile.

Despite Lesotho's complete dependence on South Africa, Jonathan was hostile to the then-apartheid regime, and in 1982 South African forces mounted a raid on the capital, Maseru.

Four years later the Jonathan regime was ousted in a coup; after several more years of instability the country adopted a new constitution and held democratic elections in 1993.

A year later, the end of the white-minority regime in South Africa eased Lesotho's isolation somewhat.

In 1998, the country was again rocked by a severe political crisis, which led to military intervention by troops from South Africa and Botswana, under a mandate from the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

On August 30, 2014 the country again plunged into chaos, when, four months after Prime Minister Tom Thabane suspended parliament to avoid a motion that would have ousted him the army attacked police headquarter.

Thabane called the incident an attempted coup and fled to South Africa, returning home several days later home with the help of mediators from the SADC.

The current monarch is King Letsie III, the son of Moshoeshoe II.

- POLITICAL SYSTEM : The Lesotho parliament has 120 members elected every five years. Eighty members represent single-seat constituencies, and the remaining 40 are elected by proportional representation.

- ECONOMY: Lesotho is one of the poorest countries in the world and its economy is heavily dependent on South Africa, to whom it exports water and hydroelectric power. Other significant exports include diamonds, wool and textiles.

In October, 2011 Lesotho signed a $15bn renewable energy deal with a South African company, financed by Chinese creditors, in the country's largest-ever private investment.

In March 2012 London-listed Gem Diamonds began a $280m expansion to double production at its Letseng mine in Lesotho, including a cutting and polishing plant, Business Day reported.

According to the World Bank, income per capita stood at $1 500 in 2013.

On the United Nations Human Development Index, Lesotho ranked 162nd out of 187 countries rated in 2013, with an HDI rating of 0.486.

- OFFICIAL WEBSITE: www.gov.ls

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.