Lesotho — Kingdom in the sky
The Khoisan inhabited Southern Africa’s hills and mountains since at least the 10th century AD, moving throughout the region. Around the 16th century, the fertile plain that today forms the Lesotho lowlands and the Free State is where the Sotho people arrived and settled. They married and intermingled with the Khoisan people and small chiefdoms were formed. Today the San are gone but rock paintings are evidence of their habitation here. Trading links were established with the different groups and with people as far as the north of South Africa.
Boer farmers (Voortrekker pioneers) arrived in the early 19th century, trading horses for cattle. With the threat of Chaka Zulu’s powerful nation and the constant threat from bandit clans, the Basotholanders soon realised that extreme pressure was being placed on their environment.
In 1820, the founder of the Basotho nation, Moshoeshoe I (1786 - 1870) secured land for the Basotho people. Many people, scattered by the Zulu nation, were drawn to Moshoeshoe for protection.
With the attack on Butha-Buthe in 1824, Moshoeshoe and his followers moved south in search of a better stronghold. The mountain of Thaba Bosiu (which means “mountain at night”) proved to be a stronger fortress. It was also on the left bank of the Caledon River and consequently less open to invaders from Natal. These people also held out against attacks from the Ngwane, the Korannas, the Boers and the British. Thaba Bosiu is about 30 kilometres from today’s capital Maseru and is a national monument.
In 1833 King Moshoeshoe welcomed missionaries from the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society. They settled in Morija and maintained a good working relationship with him, despite Moshoeshoe never converting to their faith. Other French Catholic missionaries founded Roma in the 1860’s and today, Roman Catholism is the predominant religion throughout the Kingdom.
The Boers gained independence from the British in 1854, and the Orange Free State was established. Moshoeshoe won the 1858 Free State / Basotho war but lost much of the western lowlands in 1865. Due to increasing pressure from the Boers, the Basotho region was placed under British Government protection which forced Moshoeshoe to lose even more of his good and fertile country.
Moshoeshoe the Great died in 1870 and a year later Basotholand came under the rule of the Cape Colony. Eventually the Gun War broke out which resulted in Britain once again taking over control of Basotholand. This saved the Basotho nation from being incorporated into the union of South Africa.
Lesotho gained independence on the 4th of October 1966 and today is a democratic country. King Moshoeshoe II became the first constitutional monarch and today his son; King Letsie III is monarch, the great, great grandson of King Moshoeshoe I.