Lesotho is celebrating 50 years of independence from the British. Today, 4 October 2016 marks 50 years of Lesotho’s post-colonial rule.
Lesotho, officially the Kingdom of Lesotho, is an enclaved, landlocked country in southern Africa completely surrounded by South Africa.
Its capital and largest city is Maseru. Lesotho is a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The name Lesotho translates roughly into ‘the land of the people who speak Sesotho’.
The Central Bank of Lesotho launched a fifth Maloti Limited Edition coin in September to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the country’s independence. The launch came ahead of the main celebrations on the October 4.
The coin has the face of His Majesty King Letsie III, the year 2016 with the Basotho hat, and the number five on the one side and the coats of arms the words Independence anniversary, the number 50th centred by wheat leaves on the other.
Lesotho gained independence from Britain on 4 October 1966. In January 1970 the ruling Basotho National Party (BNP) appeared set to lose the first post-independence general elections when Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan annulled the election. He refused to cede power to the Basotho Congress Party (BCP) and imprisoned its leadership.
Basutoland was founded in the 1820s by Moshoeshoe I, uniting various Sotho groups who had fled predation by the Zulu. Having escaped the Zulu, Moshoeshoe brought his people to the stronghold of Butha-Buthe, and then the mountain of Thaba-Bosiu (about 20 miles from what is now the capital of Lesotho, Maseru). But he had not yet found peace. Moshoeshoe’s territory was being picked off by the trekboers, and he approached the British for aid. In 1884 Basutholand became a British Crown Colony.
The original inhabitants of the area now known as Lesotho were the San people. Examples of their rock art can be found in the mountains throughout the area.
The one natural resource which the people have managed by means of struggle to preserve is the land. Unlike other colonies, no foreigner owns any part of Basutoland. Land is held in trust for the Basotho nation by the Paramount Chief, and may not be alienated. Grazing rights are communal, but arable land is allocated to individuals by Chiefs who act under the authority of the Paramount Chief.
However, allocation of land in the traditional manner is arbitrary, archaic and uneconomic. There is no element of economic planning in such allocation. Of the total land area of 11,720 square miles, only about 1,453 square miles are arable. There are over 170,000 households in Basutoland with an average land-holding of 4 acres each.
Lesotho is geographically surrounded by South Africa and economically integrated with it as well. The economy of Lesotho is based on agriculture, livestock, manufacturing and mining, and depends heavily on inflows of workers’ remittances and receipts from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The majority of households survive on farming.
The formal sector employment consists of mainly the female workers in the apparel sector, the male migrant labour, primarily miners in South Africa for 3 to 9 months and employment in the Government of Lesotho.
Author: Gesture Chidhanguro