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 ABOUT LESOTHO
  Geography

The Kingdom of Lesotho is completely surrounded by the Republic of South Africa. Its boundaries run with those of KwaZulu-Natal to the east, Eastern Cape to the south, and the Free State to the north and west. It lies between latitudes 28' and 31' South and longitudes 27' and 30' east. It covers an area of approximately 30 300 square kilometres of which about one quarter in the west is lowland country, varying in height above sea level from 1 500 to 1 600 m, the remaining three quarters being highlands, rising to a height of 3 482 m at Thabana-Ntlenyana in the Maluti Range, which forms the eastern boundary with KwaZulu-Natal. The mountain ranges run from north to south and those in the central area, the Maluti, are spurs of the main Drakensberg, which they join in the north, forming a high plateau varying in height from 2 700 to 3 400 m. It is in this area where two of the largest rivers in Southern Africa, the Orange (Senqu) and the Tugela, and tributaries of the Caledon, have their source. This phenomenon has caused Lesotho to be called the "sponge" of Southern Africa.


The original Lesotho consisted of the high plains of the Mohokare (Caledon) valley and adjacent areas. Modern Lesotho has lost much of the western part of this land but has gained the high mountain ranges in the east, known as the Maloti. The present boundaries of Lesotho follow in part a series of rivers, the Tele, the Senqu, the Makhaleng and the Mohokare. Between the Makhaleng and Mohokare, the south-western boundary follows a beaconed boundary fence, while between the sources of the Mohokare and Tele, the long eastern and southern boundaries follow a high mountain watershed. This section of the boundary is for much of its distance the Continental Divide between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and it is seldom far from dramatic escarpment cliffs which make access to Lesotho on this side extremely difficult.

The soils in the mountain area are of basaltic origin, and those in the lowlands are derived mainly from the underlying cave sandstone. In the lowlands, the soil has been cropped continuously for upwards of 100 years. Because of the absence of fuel, practically all cattle manure is burnt, so that little or no organic matter is returned to the land. Thus, with increasing population, both human and livestock, excessive demands have been made on the soil which has lost its structure and has become seriously eroded. The soils in the mountains have been brought into cultivation comparatively recently and are rich, but shallow. With uncontrolled grazing, the areas above the arable land, in many places , became denuded of the grass cover, and the rush of surface water caused serious gully erosion on the arable land situated below. Several measures have been, and are being, taken to control this erosion and restore and preserve the grass cover.

 Climate

Rainfall is variable and mean annual rainfall amounts to between 700 mm and 800 mm in most parts of the lowlands. Most of it falls between October and April, but there is normally no month which has less than 12 mm. Unfortunatly river discharge statistics show that most of this water is lost to Lesotho in the form of run-off.

The deciding factors from an agricultural point are whether the rain comes in steady soaking showers at intervals suited to the growth of the staple crops or whether it comes in the form of short and heavy storms, running to waste and eroding the soil.

Serious droughts have affected the country recently, and there is a large number of perennial streams, though not as many as existed some year ago. In the lowlands the temperatures vary from a maximum of 90' or more in summer to a minimum that rarely drops below 20' in winter. In the highlands the range is much wider and temperatures below zero are common.

 History of the Basotho

The emergence of Basotho as a nation occurred around 1818 when King Moshoeshoe (1786-1870) formed alliances with an amalgam of clans and chiefdoms of southern Sotho people who occupied the area which is presently the Northern and Eastern Free State and Western Lesotho from about 1400 AD.

Moshoeshoe was born at Menkhoaneng in the Northern part of present-day Lesotho in 1786. He was the first son of Mokhachane, a minor chief of the Bakoteli, a branch of the Koena clan. While still under the tutelage of his father Lepoqo, as he was called at the time, played an important role in augmenting the power of the Bakoteli subclan by bringing the senior Sekake group and a number of Bafokeng clans, including the Makara and Ratsiu groups, under his father's control.

In 1820, at the age of 34, Moshoeshoe moved to Butha-Buthe Mountain with his followers and became chief in his own right, albeit a very minor chief. This coincided with the advent of a highly turbulent period that engulfed the whole of southern Africa and affected the economic and political lives of virtually all the people of the region.

Several unrelated factors were responsible for this, but it was the conflict among the Nguni people in Natal and the arrival of white settlers across the Orange River which had the most far reaching impact on the history of the Basotho and Lesotho.

An important development at this time was the rising military dictatorship of the Zulu King, Shaka, whose attacks on neighbouring clans in northern Natal caused ripple effects which were felt as far afield as Lesotho. This was part of a process of nation building among the Nguni in Natal in the early 1820s which was characterised by the creation of larger political units and centralised structures,of authority.

To compound an already difficult situation, a severe draught hit the region in the early 1800 and sparked off unprecedented competition between these kingdoms for control of prime pasture land and fertile cropping areas. Weaker chiefdoms were either swept aside or absorbed by the centralised structures.

Independent clans such as the Amangwane, under Chief Matiwane, were forced to flee Zululand. In the process they displaced sections of the Zizi and Hlubi people who fled across the Drakensburg in 1818 from the Upper Tugela river basin, followed a short while later by the Amangwane themselves who were being further harassed by Shaka's armies.

The Hlubi people under Chief Mpagazitha, created a new stream of refugees as they in turn fell upon the Batlokoa people who were at that time living in the area of the present-day Harrismith. The Tlokoa, Hlubi and Ngwane became three separate marauding bands who,seized grain and cattle from each other and from any smaller groups of people they encountered.

These plundering raids, compounded by the drought situation, brought about famine so severe that groups of people in several parts of Lesotho turned to cannibalism. This difficult time, known as Lifaqane, was one of the darkest periods in the history of Lesotho.

Faced with all this widespread devastation of the Lifaqane period, the Basotho were forced to adapt or perish. They soon realised that the most efficient defence strategy against marauding armies was the mountain fortress. Each of the principal chiefs selected a suitable sandstone plateau surrounded by cliffs as their stronghold -the Tlokoa near Ficksburg, the Hlubi near Clocolan and the Ngwane not far from the Berea district of Lesotho.


King Moshoeshoe I (1786 - 1870), founder of the Basotho Nation

Meanwhile, Moshoeshoe was attacked by the Tlokoa at his Butha Buthe fortress in 1824. Although Moshoeshoe and his people were not defeated, the clash had exposed the weakness of Butha Buthe as a stronghold. So Moshoeshoe decided to move to the Qiloane plateau, later to be called Thaba Bosiu, as the new site of refuge and defence.

Thaba Bosiu proved to be an impregnable fortress. In was successfully defended against an Amangwane army in 1828; against the Batlokoa during Moshoeshoe's absence on a cattle raid in 1829; and against the Ndebele of Mzilikaziin 1831.

Meanwhile, Moshoeshoes's power and influence grew as he offered a friendly hand to his defeated enemies, giving them land and assistance to cultivate crops. Even former cannibals were converted into useful citizens in this way. The Basotho nation was thus largely created from refugees who were shattered remnants of clans scattered by the Lifaqane. It was further strengthened by alliances as Moshoeshoe chose wives from other clans including daughters of the long-established Bafokeng chiefs.

  Arrival of Missionaries

In the late 1820s a new threat came to the clans occupying the Mohokare valley. Groups of Khoikhoi, known as Kora, appeared led by Dutch-speaking people of mixed descent. Many were mounted on horseback and armed with guns. The Basotho again had to take refuge on their mountain-tops and in remote rock- shelters, which horses could not easily reach. Horses had never before been seen in Lesotho.

Moshoeshoe decided to obtain horses and guns for his own people. Also, after hearing of the advantages that other clans derived from having a resident missionary, Moshoeshoe sent cattle to induce a missionary to stay with him. In fact, Moshoeshoe also hoped that the mission- aries would help him to acquire guns and thus prevent the depredations of the Kora.

In this way three missionaries of the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society (PEMS) - Thomas Arbousset, Eugene Casalis and Constant Gosselin - came to Thaba Bosiu in 1833. Moshoeshoe placed them with his two senior sons, Letsie and Molapo, at Makhoarane, the site of the present-day Morija.

The arrival of the missionaries had far- reaching effects on the life of the people. Potatoes, 'wheat, fruit trees and domesti cats and pigs were introduced. Before long the missionaries had opened schools and printed books in the Sesotho language.

The French missionaries did not belong to any of the colonising white groups of southern Africa and were accepted as citizens of Moshoeshoe's kingdom. In fact, Eugene Casalls had a role similar to that of a Foreign Minister for the period 1837 - 55 while living in a mission at the foot of Thaba Bosiu . His knowledge of the outside world proved invaluable to Moshoeshoe during the period when white settlers began to threaten his kingdom.

Two Missionaries of the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society (PEMS),

Eugene Casalis (left) and Thomas Arbousset, who played an important role in the early history of Basotho.

 

 

  White Settlers

This new and powerful group, the white people from the Cape Colony, began crossing the Orange River in large numbers in the mid-1830s. They trekked in ox-waggons, lived partly by hunting and eventually some settled as farmers on land within Moshoeshoe's Kingdom and in adjacent areas. For the Basotho the next thirty years was a time when only the statesmanship and diplomacy of Moshoeshoe saved their nation from extinction.

A Treaty made with the Governor of the Cape in 1843 recognised Moshoeshoe as an ally, with duties to maintain order in a large area north of the Orange River. In return he would,receive a sum of $75 per year from the Colonial Treasury. In 1845 this was replaced by a second Treaty which recognised white settlement on part of Moshoeshoe's territory, but without clearly defining boundaries.

In 1848 the Orange River Sovereignty was proclaimed, making the area between the Orange and Vaal Rivers British territory. A British Residents Major Warden, was placed in charge at the newly founded town of Bloemfontein. Major Warden was instructed to delineate boundaries between the different chiefs, a procedure quite unacceptable to the Basotho who regarded the Barolong, the Griqua and the white farmers as settled on part of their own territory. Warden's boundary line aroused such resentment that the two sides resorted to arms. After attacks had been made on the Bataung of Moletsane, allies of Moshoeshoe, the Basotho came to their aid. At the Battle of Tihela, near Ladybrand, in 1851, a crushing defeat was delivered on Major Warden's force which included Barolong, Batlokoa, Griqua and white farmers.

A blow such as this to British prestige aroused a predictable reaction, and it was decided that Moshoeshoe should be punished. No less a personage than the High Commissioner for the Cape Colony, Lieutenant-General Sir George Cathcart brought 2 000 troops and in December 1852 camped with them near the Mohokare River, opposite the present site of Maseru. The Basotho were ordered to pay within three days a fine of 10 000 head of cattle and I 000 horses. Moshoeshoe, who always preferred peace to war, met Cathcart at his camp to request peace, but to no avail.

Only a third of the required cattle had been brought in at the expiry of the deadline, and Cathcart began military operations against Moshoeshoe. His force split into three columns, one of which soon mounted the Berea Plateau to round up cattle. As the 12th Royal Lancers were driving the cattle down from the Plateau on the north side, a force under Moshoeshoe's son, Molapo, attacked from the rear, and the British troops suffered heavy losses. That evening the Basotho further harassed Cathcart's men and caused the captured animals to stampede and break away. Meanwhile, realising that more was to be gained by diplomacy than by continuing the fight, Moshoeshoe sent Cathcart a letter which enabled him to withdraw without feeling that he had to avenge a defeat.

Cathcart and his force withdrew. Shortly afterwards Moshoeshoe defeated his old rival Sekonyela, and the entire upper Mohokare Valley came under his direct control.

  The Orange Free State

The expense of maintaining the Orange River Sovereignty proved too much for the British Government in London, and in 1854 the British withdrew from Bloemfontein, handing over responsibility to the newly proclaimed Orange Free State Republic of the Boers.

At first relations with Lesotho were cordial and at one point Moshoeshoe himself was a guest in Bloemfontein, but this did not last for long. The boundaries left undefined at the time of the British withdrawal soon led to armed conflict in Senekal's War of 1858. The result on the Basotho side was loss of life and destruction of mission stations, while the Orange Free State troops lost heavily in an ambush near Thabana-Morena, in what is now the Mafeteng District.

  Seqiti War and British Annexation

For the next few years an uneasy peace prevailed. Moshoeshoe, real'ising his precarious position, sought British protection from Sir Philip Wodehouse, the new High Commissioner, who arrived in the Cape in 1861. Hostilities with the Orange Free State again broke out in the Seqiti War of 1865. Thaba Bosiu was itself besieged but not taken and a boer commandant, Louw Wepener, was killed, during an assault on the mountain.

A short armistice followed during which Moshoeshoe renewed his entreaties to Wodehouse for protection. In 1867 Free State forces again overran much of Moshoeshoe's land and conquered almost every lowland fortress except Thaba Bosiu.

In this hour of crisis, Sir Philip Wodehouse finally secured the permission of the British Cabinet to annex the country. On 12 March 1868, Moshoeshoe's prayer was granted, and by proclamation of Sir Philip Wodehouse, Lesotho became a British territory.

Moshoeshoe died in 1870 soon after seeing his country saved. He was buried as have been nearly all principal chiefs since, in the graveyard on the summit of Thaba-Bosiu.

The after-effects of the war were serious. Casualties had been heavy, missionaries expelled and mission stations taken over, livestock lost, and, worst of all, a large area of land had been annexed by the Orange Free State. In the Convention of Aliwal North of February 1869, the boundaries of Lesotho were laid down in their present form.

The British protection sought by Moshoeshoe proved to be a mixed blessing, for Britain found it convenient to annex Lesotho to the Cape Colony which in 1872 was granted internal self- government by London. The move was unfortunate for Lesotho, since the Cape Colony soon began to apply to Lesotho the same laws and methods which it found convenient for administering other areas already annexed by force.

Matters came to a head with the imposition of the "Peace Preservation Act", by which all fire-arms were to be surrendered. Within a few months the whole countryside was in open rebellion.

The Gun War of 1880-81 cost the Cape Government dearly in men and money. Civil strife created further administrative problems. By 1883 chronic misgovernment induced the Cape Government to request Britain to restore direct rule over Lesotho, in return for which it was even prepared to pay any deficit in the annual recurrent budget.

  Resumption of Direct Rule

In this way, as a direct consequence of the Gun War, the Basotho won the right to have their country administered separate- ly from other parts of southern Africa. British rule was resumed in 1884, a major step in the sequence of events which led ultimately to the granting of independ- ence by Britain in 11966.

Under the British Resident Cornmissioner, Sir Marshall Clarke (1884-1894) and Sir Godfrey Lagden (1894-1902) together with the Paramount Chiefs Letsie (1870-91), and his son Lerotholi (1891-1905), a system of dual government evolved. The British administration were mainly concerned with Lesotho's external relations, with tax collecting, the punishment of serious crime and the settling of boundary disputes between rival chiefs. Only in the eight (later nine) small government reserves or camps that became the nuclei from which Lesotho's towns developed, did the assistant commissioners have limited powers of local government.


Early political player: King Moshoeshoe II, and the leader of the then Basotholand Congress Party (BCP), Ntsu Mokhehle

Elsewhere the traditional but nevertheless largely democratic system of chiefs and headmen continued, a situation which remained largely unchanged for half a century. The 'pitso' or open-air assembly remained the main method by which the principal chiefs consulted the people, and the 'lekhotla' or court of village elders the venue for settling minor disputes.

It soon became impossible to hold the annual national 'pitso' because the population of Lesotho was growing too large and also because the major chiefs tended to oppose one another and undermine the possibility of creating national consensus on major issues. The British Resident Commissioner proposed as an alternative to the national 'pitso' the formation of a National Council which would be composed almost entirely of chiefs, and which would advise him and the Paramount Chief on policy matters. The Council was finally accepted and implemented by Paramount Chief Lerotholi (1891-1905) in 1903.

This development did not satisfy some sections of the nation, particularly the intelligensia who formed the Progressive Association in 1907, calling for representa- tive structures and the movement towards a parliamentary system. Later the more radical Commoners' League was founded by those who wanted a return to the older order through a revitalised and more responsible chieftainship.

The death of Lerotholi (1891-1905) marked the end of a Paramountcy which was strong and widely respected. His son Letsie 11 (1905-1913), allowed the Para- mountcy to drift, and took little interest in government.

The reign of Letsie II's successor, Paramount Chief Griffith Lerotholi (1913- 1939), was characterised by a struggle between the Paramountcy and various groups to define the future of Lesotho. Griffith sought to revitalise the Paramo- untcy by re-establishing control over the hundreds of minor chiefs and pressurising them to join the Catholic Church, which to him provided the correct path for the evolution of Sotho society. Griffith also opposed all efforts at reforming the system of chieftainship initiated by the Basotuland Progressive Association (BPA) and the Commoners' League(CL).

Leader of the then Basutoland National Party, Chief Leabua Jonathan (left) and the leader of the Marematlou Party (MTP), Mr Khaketla.

When Griffith died in 1939 he was succeeded by his son, Seeiso, who ruled for only one year. He died under mys- terious circumstances and was replaced by his first wife, the Regent 'Mantsebo (1941-1960), who oversaw a turbulent period of change.

It was at this time that a new and more coherent nationalist movement emerged led by the commoner Ntsu Mokhehle, a highly educated and articulate spokesman for a party that initially embraced a wide cross-section of Basotho. His movement, the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP), called for self determination and the end of all racist practices in Lesotho.

The BCP set the political agenda for much of the 1950s and the chieftainship lost the initiative in public life. The British reluctantly agreed to the increasing pressure for constitutional change and self determination. By 1960 the National Council was composed equally of both chiefs, who were appointed, and members indirectly chosen from the nine District Councils. District Councils had been functioning since 1950 and incorporated chiefs and electedf Commoners. They were intended to bring government closer to the people. Even more important was the acceptance by the Regent 'Mantsebo that the monarchy would in future be greatly limited in power.

  Politics of Independence

By the tirne the 1960 Disctrict Council elections were held, the BCP was the best established political rnovernent - but it was no longer alone. As rnoves were made to establish a Legislative Council in the late 1950s, division began to emerge in the BCP. As early as 1957, certain senior chiefs led by S S Matete, formed the Marerna Tiou Party (MTP). They feared that commoners would dominate the Legislative Council and that the Regent 'Mantsebo would relinquish all of the prerogatives of the monarchy. They called for the immediate installation of Constantinus Bereng Seeiso as Paramount Chief and Prince Bereng Seeiso was eventually installed as Moshoeshoe II in 1960.

A second split occurred when a number of junior chiefs, allied to the Catholic Church, questioned the radical Pan Africanist views of Mokhehle. BCP talk of democratising the chieftainship also frightened many. These chiefs and Catholics formed the Basutoland National Party in 1958 which was led by Chief Leabua Jonathan.

The 1960 elections showed the BCP and allied independent candidates winning 32 of 40 indirectly elected seats in the Legislative Council. The MTP and BNP shared the rest. This victory did not empower the BCP to govern, however, because the other 40 seats in the Council were appointed from among chiefs and conservative elements.

The Constitutional Review Commission appointed by Moshoeshoe II in 1961, submitted its report in 1963. It approved a West minister style constitution, with the 60 seats of the Lower House being elected by universal adult suffrage, while the Senate would consist of the 22 Principal and Ward chiefs as well as 11 members nominated by the monarch. The King was to enjoy few powers and this disappointed him greatly. The Constitution enjoyed widespread support and was accepted by Britain. Elections for the first government would be held in 1965, with Independence following soon thereafter.

The results of the 1965 elections were a surprise to most observers who expected the BCP to repeat its landslide victory of the 1960 elections. The BNP won 31 seats, the BCP 25 and the MTP only 4 seats. The BNP led Lesotho to Independence on 4 October 1966.

Although the BNP government did achieve some measure of success during its five-year term, the electorate were disillusioned and thought the party had done very little to improve the lot of the people. Others thought it was too friendly with apartheid South Africa and had lost touch with the rural people who got it into power. The BNP was, however, oblivious to the people's real feelings as it relaxed and took its own propaganda too seriously. The BCP moved quickly into this growing vaccuurn and organised effectively against the BNP in the 1970 elections.

The BCP won the 1970 general elections, capturing 36 seats to the BNP's 23, with the MFP picking up only one. Initially the BNP government may have been prepared to hand over power to the opposition, but certain cabinet ministers threatened the prime minister and together they engineered the nullification of the elections, the declaration of a state of emergency, and the arrest of opposition leaders and the King. Talks to bring about a true government of national unity were scuttled when Britain unilaterally resumed its massive aid programme to Lesotho. In 1973 the government gained a measure of credibility by forming an interim National Assembly appointed by Leabua and including certain prominent BCP leaders who had broken away from Mokhehle.

Between 1973 and 1985 significant strides were made in Lesotho in expand- ing the school and health systems, in upgrading roads and communications, in training government workers and in securing foreign aid for a multitude of projects. Foreign aid increased dramatic- ally when the government began voicing harsh criticism of apartheid policies of its neighbour and allowed a large number of ANC exiles to stay in the country.

Faced with growing internal and external pressure, both from the armed wing of the BCP as well as foreign donors, the BNP government was forced to make a feeble attempt towards holding representative elections in 1985. Because the BNP threatened the other parties, only the BNP contested the primaries and thus there was 'no need' to hold general elections. But this 'overwhelming victory' only served to exacerbate tensions inside the ruling party itself. Finally, the crisis was precipitated by a South African border blockade in January 1986, which was overtly a challenge to the growing ANC presence in Lesotho. Leabua's government was overthrown in a military coup led by Major-General Lekhanya.

The military ruled for the period 1986-1993. The King was given executive powers and political parties were banned. But there was growing tension in the Military Council between the monarchists, who supported a full-scale return to government based upon the chieftainship and an executive monarchy, and those who doubted this programme for what ever reason. In 1990, the King's major backers in the Military Council were removed, the King was forced into exile, and then dethroned. Prince Mohato was sworn in as Letsie III in November 1990. Major General Lekhanya, in order to restore his own waning support, made sweeping promises for a return to democratically elected government under a revised constitution. But hardly a year later Lekhanya was deposed by the military over a pay dispute and was replaced by Major-General Ramaema, who undertook to continue with Lekhanya's democratic programme.

After three years of preparation, the 1966 Constitution was revised, a vigorous election campaign was held, and the long- awaited general elections were held on 27 March, 1993 . The BCP won a landslide victory, capturing all 65 constituencies with over 70 percent of the vote. The election was declared to have been free and fair by a wide range of internal and external monitors.

The BCP was faced with the daunting task of re-establishing a truly democratic structure and spirit to government, both at the national and local level. During its first year in office the new government also faced a number of crises, including turmoil within the security forces.

Most important was the 'Palace Coup' of August 1994 when King Letsie III suspended the constitution and created an interim government. But it soon became clear that there was no support from the nation for the usurpers. South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe intervened. The coup collapsed and the democratically elected government was returned to power. As part of the terms of the settlement, Moshoeshoe II was reinstalled as King of Lesotho.

On 15 January 1996 King Moshoeshoe II died in a car accident and was buried at Thaba Bosiu, the burial place of all Lesotho Kings, on 26 January. Among the dignitaries that attended the funeral were Presidents Quett Masire of Botswana, Nelson Mandela of South Africa and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. King Moshoeshoe was succeeded by his son who was sworn in as King Letsie III on 7 February 1996.-

Throughout the 1990s, politics in Lesotho were deeply affected by economic difficulties relating to the decline of the gold mining industry in South Africa. Low prices for gold on world markets translated into declining employment opportunities for Basotho miners in South Africa, and in turn, declining remittances to Lesotho by Basotho migrant labor. In 1989, there were 129,000 Basotho miners working in South Africa. By 1998, Basotho miners in South Africa had declined to 80,400, and by 1999, there were only 68,400 migrant Basotho miners in South Africa. The impact of declining remittances from miners on Lesotho’s economy is staggering. In 1986, miners remittances accounted for 67 percent of Lesotho’s Gross Domestic Product. By 1996, miners were contributing only 33 percent of Lesotho’s GDP, and it is estimated that from 1998 to 1999 migrant remittances dropped another 15 percent to a figure of about 190 million US dollars.

The leadup to general elections in 1998 was marked by infighting among leaders of he BCP. In 1997, intra party disputes over leadership roles resulted in the formation of a new party, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), led by Ntsu Mokhehle. Mokhehle succeeded in taking the majority of the BCP rank and file into the LCD, and the LCD won an overwhelming victory in the 1998 election winning 78 out of 80 possible seats in the National Assembly. Reflecting the effects of Lesotho’s ‘first past the post’ electoral system, in which the leading vote getter in parliamentary seat constituencies wins the election, the Basotho National Party won only one seat, although overall it gained 24.5 percent of the vote. Following the election, due to illness, Pakalitha Mosisili replaced Ntsu Mokhehle as prime minister.

Both the Basotho National Party and the Basotholand Congress Party protested the results of the elections. On the side of the BCP, the protests were rooted in continued enmity over the formation of the LCD. The BNP however, felt that it was denied adequate representation in the National Assembly due to Lesotho’s “first past the post” electoral system.

A South African constitutional court judge and other international election observers ruled that, notwithstanding irregularities, the 1998 elections were valid. However, opposition groups were able to demonstrate considerable support for their challenge to the election’s legitimacy. Beginning in August 1998, nearly two months of civil unrest over alleged election irregularities resulted in significant economic disruption and damage to commercial infrastructure.

A split in the Lesotho army exacerbated confusion during pro and anti government demonstrations. The army became divided when several officers refused to obey orders to use force to disperse protesters. On Sept. 11, 1998, junior army officers detained 20 senior officers.

On September 16, Prime Minister Mosisili made the first of several appeals for military intervention by South Africa and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to help the government maintain order. In response to Mosisili’s appeal, Botswana and South Africa sent troops to Lesotho. Clashes between the foreign troops, protesters and Lesotho army supporters led to several casualties.

In mid-October of 1999, the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy met with the opposition parties to negotiate the implementation of new elections. An agreement was made to establish an Interim Political Authority (IPA) made up of two delegates from each political party. The broad justification for the IPA was to help achieve political compromise and avoid a descent into political chaos. Specifically, the IPA was charged to undertake reforms of the electoral system and to organize new elections within 18 months. The IPA took power in early December 1998. By that time, 100 had died in the conflict. South African and Botswana troops finally withdrew in April and May 1999.


Source :
1. Lesotho 1996 - OFFICIAL YEARBOOK
2. www.countryWatch.com