In this episode of 80 Days: An Exploration Podcast, we’ll be talking about the Kingdom of Lesotho, previously the British Crown Colony of Basutoland. This small African country is entirely surrounded by South Africa, making it one of only three nations to be contained entirely within another country’s borders. Lesotho is also one of the highest countries in the world, standing an average of 1500 metres above sea level, making it the fifth highest nation in the world by average elevation. Lesotho has a population of around 2 million, and its capital and largest city is Maseru.
At around 30,000 square kilometres, the country is roughly the size of Belgium or the US state of Hawaii. Its combination of high altitude and a relatively cool climate results in it being free of tropical diseases. Rainfall is highly variable, farming is difficult and the country has few natural resources. Sesotho is the national language, but English is the language of business, government and education.
Above is the location of Lesotho, contained entirely within South Africa.
Here are a few things you may want to read/watch more about:
- Lesotho is one of the very few places in Southern Africa that has its own ski resort. The Atlantic has written a profile about this resort, which is named Afriski.
- SA History provides an exhaustive rundown of the rise of Shaka Zulu and his people, which countered the rise of Moshoeshoe in Lesotho.
- Historical Dictionary of Lesotho by S. Rosenberg and R. F. Weisfelder
- We spoke a lot about coups toward the end of this month’s episode. You can find the Wikipedia page we mentioned here.
- Did you know that Lesotho was the inspiration for Black Panther‘s fictional nation of Wakanda? Director Ryan Coogler has spoken about how he took inspiration from the tiny mountain nation that resisted Boers and Zulus in an interview with Vulture.
- “The History of the Basotho traditional blankets” and their influence on Black Panther (The Blanket Wrap website)
- We spoke at length about the father of the nation, Moshoeshoe (and his uncanny resemblance to Morgan Freeman) in this episode. You can find out more about him on Brittanica.
- Contrast this Western-style appearance with his description in “The Basutos: the mountaineers and their country” (Sir Godfrey Lagden, 1909)
- The various Basotho-Free State wars are described here
- “Basutoland: Its Legends and Customs” (Minnie Martin, 1903)
- Contemporary accounts of Morosi’s rebellion
- Toward the end of the episode we spoke about South Africa’s reliance on water from Lesotho. In fact, it Lesotho’s water has earned the nickname ‘white gold’ due to its importance to the economy. The BBC has written a piece about this ‘white gold’ and the crucial role it plays in Lesotho’s development.
- Listen too to the NPR Planet Money podcast on Lesotho’s water resources
- Power in Colonial Africa by Elizabeth A. Eldredge, which is quoted in this episode, is available for free online here.
- Africa Past & Present Podcast episode “Development Dreams in in Lesotho” interviews Jonn-Arni Flessner
- New York Times articles from 1994 and 1998 about various incidents of unrest in the country, the latter about the wisdom of the Mandela government’s intervention
- The interview with ousted PM Thomas Thabane after the 2014 coup can be found here on YouTube.
- The botched South African raid into Lesotho under the guise of peacekeeping was profiled in the Sept 27, 1998 edition of the New York Times, which can be found via their archives here.
- If you, like us, are a fan of flags, you can find more info on how Lesotho’s flag came to be on Wikipedia.
- Useful Sesotho phrases (from Omniglot)
Some nice music (and characteristic dancing, in some cases) we found:
- Traditional Basotho song by Lesotho men
- Basotho women performing a traditional song and dance
- Mamello Rabochene – “Kajeno Re Batho” – “Today We Are People”: Gospel song
- “Mahlanya le Mohoke” – Itsamaele
- “Il Cammino della Musica” documentary series visits Lesotho and talks with musicians about instruments and styles used in the Kingdom
- We also used a song from Lee Rosevere, available under creative commons license 3.0 by attribution
Thanks to Seán Lyons for his interview about his time working in Lesotho with Irish NGO Action Lesotho. A massive thanks too to all of our patrons on Patreon who are supporting season 3. If you’d like to join them and see what rewards are available for supporters, and get a peek behind the curtain check out www.patreon.com/80dayspodcast. We really appreciate the support and input!