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  About Lesotho Menu
History of the Basotho
Arrival of Missionaries
White Settlers
The Orange Free State
Seqiti War and British Annexation
Resumption of Direct Rule
Politics of Independence
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Embassy of the Kingdom of Lesotho

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  ABOUT LESOTHO - Resumption of Direct Rule

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.

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