Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

the sites of vents or fissures of eruption. The upper part of the Maluti range consists of flows of melaphyres and diabases belonging to the volcanic beds. Among these lavas is the “pipe” amygdaloid of which many blocks have been transported great distances down the Vaal river. The amygdales are three or four inches long and about three-eighths of an inch in diameter. Heulandite, with thomsonite, stilbite, scolecite, calcite and chalcedony, occur as infilling minerals.

Climate.—The climate is excellent, invigorating alike for Europeans and natives. The mean annual temperature is about 60° F. The four seasons are distinctly marked, a rarity in South Africa, where the transition from summer to winter is generally very rapid. The heat of summer (December-March, which is the rainy season) is tempered by cool breezes; winter (May-September, inclusive) is dry, cold and bracing, and frost prevails for prolonged periods. The average annual rainfall is about 30 in. The general health conditions are good. Malaria is almost unknown and chest complaints are rare. Epidemics of smallpox and typhoid occur; and leprosy, imported from the Orange River and Cape Colonies, has taken firm hold on the Basuto, of whom about 91 per 1000 are sufferers from this disease.

Flora and Fauna.—A few kloofs are wooded, but of forest land there is none. Along the upper courses of the rivers are willows and wild olive trees; round the chief settlements the eucalyptus and the pine have been planted. Heaths, generally somewhat rare in South Africa outside the Cape peninsula, are abundant in Basutoland. The Alpine flora is very beautiful. There are few wild animals; but the eland, hartebeest and smaller antelopes are found, as well as the leopard and the jackal. Mountain hares, partridges and quails afford good sport; baboons and great hawks live in the mountains. The few fish include the barbel. Swarms of locusts occasionally visit the country; the locusts are eaten by the Basuto.

Population and Towns.—Considering the extensive area of uninhabitable mountain land it contains, the Territory supports a large population. The inhabitants increased from 128,206 in 1875 to 348,848 in 1904. The females outnumber the males by about 20,000, which is, however, about the number of adult males away from the country at any given period. The majority live in the district between the Maluti mountains and the Caledon river. The great bulk of the people are Basuto, but there are some thousands of Barolong and other Kaffirs. The Basuto proper are a branch of the Bechuana family of Bantu-Negroids. The white inhabitants in 1904 numbered 895, and there were 222 coloured persons other than natives. The seat of government is Maseru, on the left bank of the Caledon, with a population of about 1000 including some 100 Europeans. Mafeteng, in the N.W. near the Cape frontier, is a thriving agricultural centre, as is Butha Buthe in the N.E. Morija, some 16 m. S.E. of Maseru, is the oldest mission station in the Territory, having been founded by the Paris Society about 1833. Three miles from Morija is Matsieng, the kraal of the paramount chief Lerothodi (who died in August 1905). There are numerous mission stations throughout Basutoland, to several of which Biblical names have been given, such as Shiloh, Hermon, Cana, Bethesda, Berea.

Agriculture and Trade.—Basutoland is one of the greatest grain-growing countries of South Africa. The richest tract of land is that between the Maluti mountains and the Caledon river. In summer the country appears as one waving field of wheat, millet and mealies; whilst on the mountain slopes and on their flat tops are large flocks of sheep, cattle and goats, and troops of ponies. The Basuto ponies, said to be descended from Shetland ponies which, imported to the Cape in 1840, strayed into the mountains, are short-legged, strong-bodied, sure-footed, and noted for their hardiness. Improvements in the breed have been effected by the introduction of Arab stallions. Nearly every Basuto is an agriculturist; there are no manufactories, and the minerals, in accordance with the desire of the people, are not worked. The land is wholly in the possession of the natives, who hold it on the communal system. Whites and Indians are allowed to establish trading stations on obtaining special permits from the government, and the Indians absorb much of the retail trade. The chief exports are wheat, mealies, Kaffir corn, wool, mohair, horses and cattle. The great bulk of the imports are textiles. The value of the trade depends on regular rains, so that in seasons of drought the exports seriously diminish. The average annual value of trade for the five years ending the 30th of June 1905 was:—Exports £215,668, imports £203,026. Trade is almost entirely with Orange River Colony and Cape Colony. The Territory is a member of the South African Customs Union. Some 60,000 Basuto (annual average) find employment outside the Territory, more than half of whom seek farm and domestic service. A small proportion go to the Johannesburg gold mines, and others obtain employment on the railways.

Communication over the greater part of the Territory is by road; none of the rivers is navigable. A state-owned railway, 16½ m. long, starting from Maseru crosses the Caledon river and joins the line connecting Bloemfontein and Ladysmith. This railway follows, N.E. of Maseru, the right bank of the Caledon, and affords a ready means of transport for the cereals raised on the left or Basuto side of the river. Highroads, maintained by the government, traverse every part of the country, and bridges have been built across the Caledon. The usual mode of conveyance is by ox-waggon or light cart. Several passes through the Drakensberg into Griqualand East and Natal exist, but are little used. There is a complete postal and telegraphic service and a telephone line connects all government stations.

Government and Finance.—Basutoland is a crown colony, of which the high commissioner for South Africa is governor. In him resides the legislative power, exercised by proclamation. The Territory is administered, under the direction of the governor, by a resident commissioner, who is also the chief judicial officer. He is aided by a government secretary and by assistant commissioners. Under the British officials the country is governed by hereditary native chiefs, over whom is a paramount chief. The chiefs have jurisdiction in cases affecting natives, but there is a right of appeal to the courts of the commissioners, who try all cases in which any of the parties are European. A national council (pitso), representative of all the native tribes, meets annually for the free discussion of public affairs. For administrative purposes the Territory is divided into the seven districts of Maseru, Leribe, Mohales Hoek, Berea, Mafeteng, Quthing and Qacha’s Nek, each of which is subdivided into wards presided over by Basuto chiefs.

Revenue is obtained from a hut tax of £1 per hut; the sale of licences to trade; customs and post office receipts. Seven-eighths of the revenue comes from the hut tax and customs. The average annual revenue for the five years 1901-1905 was £96,880; the average annual expenditure £69,559. Basutoland has no public debt.

Education and Social Condition.—Education is given in schools founded by missionary societies, of which the chief is the Société des Missions Évangéliques de Paris. A large proportion of the people can read and write Sesuto (as the Basuto language is called) and English, and speak Dutch, whilst a considerable number also receive higher education. Many Basuto at the public examinations take higher honours than competitors of European descent. There are over 200 schools, with an average attendance exceeding 10,000. Nine-tenths of the scholars are in the schools of the French Protestant Mission, which are conducted by English, or English-speaking, missionaries. A government grant is made towards the cost of upkeep. A government industrial school (opened in 1906) is maintained at Maseru, and the Paris Society has an industrial school at Leloaleng. The social condition of the people is higher than that of the majority of South African natives. Many Basuto profess Christianity and have adopted European clothing. Serious crime is rare among them and “deliberate murder is almost unknown.”[1] They are, like mountaineers generally, of a sturdy, independent spirit, and are given to the free expression of their views, generally stated with good sense and moderation. These views found a new medium of publicity in 1904 when an independent native

  1. Report by resident-commissioner H.C. Sloley, for 1902-1903.