The World Factbook (1990)/Lesotho

The World Factbook (1990)
United States Central Intelligence Agency

pages 179–180


World Factbook (1990) Lesotho.jpg

 See regional map VII


Total area: 30,350 km²; land area: 30,350 km²

Comparative area: slightly larger than Maryland

Land boundary: 909 km with South Africa

Coastline: none—landlocked

Maritime claims: none—landlocked

Climate: temperate; cool to cold, dry winters; hot, wet summers

Terrain: mostly highland with some plateaus, hills, and mountains

Natural resources: some diamonds and other minerals, water, agricultural and grazing land

Land use: 10% arable land; 0% permanent crops; 66% meadows and pastures; 0% forest and woodland; 24% other

Environment: population pressure forcing settlement in marginal areas results in overgrazing, severe soil erosion, soil exhaustion; desertification

Note: surrounded by South Africa; Highlands Water Project will control, store, and redirect water to South Africa


Population: 1,754,664 (July 1990), growth rate 2.6% (1990)

Birth rate: 37 births/1,000 population (1990)

Death rate: 10 deaths/1,000 population (1990)

Net migration rate: 0 migrants/1,000 population (1990)

Infant mortality rate: 80 deaths/1,000 live births (1990)

Life expectancy at birth: 59 years male, 62 years female (1990)

Total fertility rate: 4.9 children born/woman (1990)

Nationality: noun—Mosotho (sing.), Basotho (pl.); adjective—Basotho

Ethnic divisions 99.7% Sotho; 1,600 Europeans, 800 Asians

Religion: 80% Christian, rest indigenous beliefs

Language: Sesotho (southern Sotho) and English (official); also Zulu and Xhosa

Literacy: 59% (1989)

Labor force: 689,000 economically active; 86.2% of resident population engaged in subsistence agriculture; roughly 60% of active male labor force works in South Africa

Organized labor: there are two trade union federations; the government favors formation of a single, umbrella trade union confederation


Long-form name: Kingdom of Lesotho

Type: constitutional monarchy

Capital: Maseru

Administrative divisions: 10 districts; Berea, Butha-Buthe, Leribe, Mafeteng, Maseru, Mohales Hoek, Mokhotlong, Qachas Nek, Quthing, Thaba-Tseka

Independence: 4 October 1966 (from UK; formerly Basutoland)

Constitution: 4 October 1966, suspended January 1970

Legal system: based on English common law and Roman-Dutch law; judicial review of legislative acts in High Court and Court of Appeal; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

National holiday: Independence Day, 4 October (1966)

Executive branch: monarch, chairman of the Military Council, Military Council, Council of Ministers (cabinet)

Legislative branch: a bicameral Parliament consisting of an upper house or Senate and a lower house or National Assembly was dissolved in January 1970; following the military coup of 20 January 1986, legislative powers were vested in the monarch

Judicial branch: High Court, Court of Appeal

Leaders: Chief of State—King MOSHOESHOE II (Paramount Chief from 1960 until independence on 4 October 1966, when he became King); Heir Apparent Letsie David SEEISO (son of the King);

Head of Government—Chairman of the Military Council Maj. Gen. Justin Metsing LEKHANYA (since 24 January 1986)

Political parties and leaders: Basotho National Party (BNP), position vacant; Basutoland Congress Party (BCP), Ntsu Mokhehle; Basotho Democratic Alliance (BDA), A. S. Nqojane; National Independent Party (NIP), A. C. Manyeli; Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP), S. H. Mapheleba; United Democratic Party, C. D. Mofeli

Suffrage: universal at age 21

Elections: National Assembly—dissolved following the military coup in January 1986; no date set for national elections

Communists: small Lesotho Communist Party

Member of: ACP, AfDB, CCC, Commonwealth, FAO, G-77, GATT (de facto), IBRD, ICAO, IDA, IFAD, IFC, ILO, IMF, INTERPOL, ITU, NAM, OAU, Southern African Customs Union, SADCC, UN, UNESCO, UPU, WHO, WMO

Diplomatic representation: Ambassador W. T. VAN TONDER; Chancery at 2511 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington DC 20008; telephone (202) 797-5 534; US—Ambassador (vacant): Deputy Chief of Mission Howard F. JETER; Embassy at address NA, Maseru (mailing address is P. O. Box 333, Maseru 100); telephone [266] 312666

Flag: divided diagonally from the lower hoist side corner; the upper half is white bearing the brown silhouette of a large shield with crossed spear and club; the lower half is a diagonal blue band with a green triangle in the corner


Overview: Small, landlocked, and mountainous, Lesotho has no important natural resources other than water. Its economy is based on agriculture, light manufacturing, and remittances from laborers employed in South Africa. Subsistence farming is the principal occupation for about 86% of the domestic labor force and accounts for about 20% of GDP. Manufacturing depends largely on farm products to support the milling, canning, leather, and jute industries; other industries include textile, clothing, and light engineering. Industry's share of total GDP rose from 6% in 1982 to 10.5% in 1987. During the period 1985-87 real GDP growth averaged 2.9% per year, only slightly above the population growth rate. In FY89 per capita GDP was only $245 and nearly 25% of the labor force was unemployed.

GDP: $412 million, per capita $245; real growth rate 8.2% (FY89 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 15.0% (FY89 est.)

Unemployment rate: 23% (1988)

Budget: revenues $159 million; expenditures $224 million, including capital expenditures of $68 million (FY89 est.)

Exports: $55 million (f.o.b., FY89 est.); commodities—wool, mohair, wheat, cattle, peas, beans, corn, hides, skins, baskets; partners—South Africa 87%, EC 10%, (1985)

Imports: $526 million (f.o.b., FY89 est.); commodities—mainly corn, building materials, clothing, vehicles, machinery, medicines, petroleum, oil, and lubricants; partners—South Africa 95%, EC 2% (1985)

External debt: $235 million (December 1988)

Industrial production: growth rate 10.3% (1988 est.)

Electricity: power supplied by South Africa

Industries: tourism

Agriculture: exceedingly primitive, mostly subsistence farming and livestock; principal crops are corn, wheat, pulses, sorghum, barley

Aid: US commitments, including Ex-Im (FY70-88), $252 million; Western (non-US) countries, ODA and OOF bilateral commitments (1970-87), $714 million; OPEC bilateral aid (1979-89), $4 million; Communist countries (1970-88), $14 million

Currency: loti (plural—maloti); 1 loti (L) = 100 lisente

Exchange rates: maloti (M) per US$1—2.5555 (January 1990), 2.6166 (1989), 2.2611 (1988), 2.0350 (1987), 2.2685 (1986), 2.1911 (1985); note—the Basotho loti is at par with the South African rand

Fiscal year: 1 April-31 March


Railroads: 1.6 km; owned, operated, and included in the statistics of South Africa

Highways: 5,167 km total; 508 km paved; 1,585 km crushed stone, gravel, or stabilized soil; 946 km improved earth, 2,128 km unimproved earth

Civil air: 2 major transport aircraft

Airports: 28 total, 28 usable; 2 with permanent surface runways; none with runways over 3,659 m; 1 with runways 2,440-3,659 m; 2 with runways 1,220-2,439 m

Telecommunications: modest system consisting of a few land lines, a small radio relay system, and minor radiocommunication stations; 5,920 telephones; stations—2 AM, 2 FM, 1 TV; 1 Atlantic Ocean INTELSAT earth station

Defense Forces

Branches: Army, Air Wing, Police Department

Military manpower: males 15-49, 381,015; 205,499 fit for military service

Defense expenditures: 8.6% of GDP, or $35 million (1989 est.)