OFFICIAL NAME: Kingdom of Lesotho
CAPITAL: Maseru
SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT: Constitutional Monarchy
AREA: 30,355 Sq Km (11,720 Sq Mi)
ESTIMATED 2000 POPULATION: 2,182,700


Direct Link to Political MapDirect Link to Physical MapLOCATION & GEOGRAPHY: Lesotho is an enclave within the east central region of the Republic of South Africa. It is completely surrounded by the Republic of South Africa and the country has three geographical regions. (1.) The Western Lowlands which consists of undulating basins and plains that cover 25% of the land area. (2.) The cave sandstone terrace which is an intermediate region between the highlands and the lowlands. (3.) The Eastern Highland which include the Maluti Mountains and Thabana-Ntlenyana, the country's highest point. The country is drained by tributaries of the Orange, Caledon and Tugela Rivers. Major Cities (pop. est.); Maseru 109,400, Maputsoe 20,000 (1986). Land Use; pastures 66%, agricultural-cultivated 11%, other 23% (1993).


CLIMATE: Lesotho has a continental climate which is characterized by extremes in temperatures. Snow is frequent in the Eastern Highland while the lowlands can also experience occasional snow in winter. The summer season is from October to April with rainfall at its heaviest during January. Average annual precipitation is 725 mm (29 inches) and thunderstorms are common during the wet season. Average temperature ranges in Maseru are from -3 to 17 degrees Celsius (27 to 63 degrees Fahrenheit) in July to 15 to 33 degrees Celsius (59 to 91 degrees Fahrenheit) in January.


PEOPLE: The principal ethnic majority are the Basotho who are Bantus of southern Sotho stock and account for around 99.7% of the population. The remainder are Zulu, Tembu and Fingo.


DEMOGRAPHIC/VITAL STATISTICS: Density; 60 persons per sq km (154 persons per sq mi) (1991). Urban-Rural; 18.9% urban, 81.1% rural (1988). Sex Distribution; 48.2% male, 51.8% female (1987). Life Expectancy at Birth; 51.5 years male, 60.5 years female (1990). Age Breakdown; 41% under 15, 25% 15 to 29, 17% 30 to 44, 11% 45 to 59, 5% 60 to 74, 1% 75 and over (1987). Birth Rate; 40.8 per 1,000 (1990). Death Rate; 12.4 per 1,000 (1990). Increase Rate; 28.4 per 1,000 (1990). Infant Mortality Rate; 100.0 per 1,000 live births (1990).


RELIGIONS: Mostly Christians with 43% of the population Roman Catholic while 30% are Protestant, 11.5% are Anglican and 8% are of other Christian denominations. The remainder follow local native tribal beliefs.


LANGUAGES: The official languages are Sesotho or Southern Sotho and English with Sesotho spoken by virtually all the Basotho.


EDUCATION: Aged 10 or over and having attained: no formal schooling 22.9%, primary 52.8%, secondary 23.2%, higher 0.6% (1987). Literacy; literate population aged 15 or over 655,400 or 73.6% (1985).


MODERN HISTORY - WWII TO 1993: In 1960 Britain granted Basutoland a new constitution, which was revised in 1964 and was a major step towards self-government. The first general election under this constitution was held in 1965 and Moshoeshoe II became King in 1966. On Oct. 4, 1966 Basutoland gained complete independence within the Commonwealth with Chief Lebua Jonathan as Prime Minister. In Jan. 1974 Chief Jonathan survived a coup attempt but was deposed by the military, led by Maj.Gen. Justin Metsino Lekhanya in Jan. 1986. After the 1986 coup, all executive and legislative powers were transferred to King Moshoeshoe II and all political parties were banned. In Feb. 1990 the executive powers were assumed by Maj.-Gen. Lekhanya after the King refused to approve the replacement of members who Maj.-Gen. Lekhanya had removed from the Military Council. On Mar. 10, 1990 the King was sent into exile in Britain and in Nov. 1990 Prince Mohato, the King's 27 year old son, was sworn in as King Letsie III. On April 30, 1991 the chairman of the Military Council was forced to resign and on May 2, 1991 Col. Elias Tutsoane Ramaema was sworn in as the new chairman. On May 13, 1991 Col. Ramaema announced that the legislation banning political parties was to be repelled and that democratic elections would be held by June 1992. Also in 1991 the country signed agreements with European banks worth US $225 million to fund its hydroelectric development. In March 1992 a Commonwealth mission visited Lesotho and the government requested assistance from the Commonwealth Secretariat during its return to multiparty politics. In July 1992 the exiled King, Moshoehoe II returned home after 2 years in exile. Also in 1992 diplomatic relations were established with South Africa, the Ivory Coast and Kenya. In Jan. 1993 the government announced multiparty elections for March 27, 1993. The elections resulted in a landslide victory for the Basotho Congress Party (BCP) which won all 65 of the National Assembly seats. On April 2, 1993 Ntsu Mokhehle was inaugurated as Prime Minister and later made a reconciliation offer to the opposition Basotho National Party (BNP) of two seats in the Senate which was rejected.


CURRENCY: The official currency is the Loti (plural; Maloti) (M) divided into 100 Lisenti.


ECONOMY: Gross National Product; USD $1,254,000,000 (1993). Public Debt; USD $471,900,000 (1993). Imports; M 2,992,700,000 (1994). Exports; M 509,300,000 (1994). Tourism Receipts; USD $17,000,000 (1993). Balance of Trade; M -2,435,900,000 (1993). Economically Active Population; 617,871 or 45.1% of total population (1993). Unemployed; 35.0% (1992).


MAIN TRADING PARTNERS: Its main trading partner is South Africa.

MAIN PRIMARY PRODUCTS: Asparagus, Beans, Diamonds, Livestock, Maize, Peas, Pulses, Sorghum, Wheat.

MAJOR INDUSTRIES: Agriculture, Carpets, Craft, Food Processing, Pharmaceuticals, Textiles, Tourism, Tractor Assembly, Tyre Retreading.

MAIN EXPORTS: Asparagus, Beans, Diamonds, Mohair, Peas, Wool.


TRANSPORT: Railroads; route length 2 km (1 mi) (1987), passenger-km N/A., cargo ton-km N/A. Roads; length 4,715 km (2,930 mi) (1988). Vehicles; cars 6,363 (1986), trucks and buses 15,379 (1986). Merchant Marine; nil. Air Transport; passenger-km 28,000,000 (17,398,000 passenger-mi) (1989), cargo ton-km 737,000 (505,000 short ton-mi) (1989).


COMMUNICATIONS: Daily Newspapers; total of 6 with a total circulation of 36,000 (1993). Radio; receivers 118,000 (1994). Television; receivers 50,000 (1994). Telephones; units 10,500 (1993).


MILITARY: 2,000 (1995) total active duty personnel with 100% army while military expenditure accounts for 3.3% (1992) of the Gross National Product (GNP).


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