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Preface Last Updated: 8/31/2001 6:00 PM

Lesotho has dramatic snow‑clad mountain ranges, high waterfalls plunging into deep basalt gorges, neat villages of thatched houses linked by only a bridle path to the outside world, small market towns where blanketed horsemen outnumber cars, and a unique capital, Maseru, where people from five continents work together to solve the nation’s problems.

These are but glimpses of a small and remarkable country whose survival as an enclave is testimony to an enduring national spirit; a country created by the wisdom and diplomacy of Moshoeshoe the Great; and a country which, in 1966, after 98 years under the British flag, again took its place among the family of nations.

In Lesotho today, all are equal under the law, and all those who come in this spirit are welcome. Lesotho prizes its friendship with foreign countries and gratefully acknowledges their interest in its national development.

Although Lesotho may seem small on the map of Africa, it is possible to travel for many days and not exhaust its scenic delights. Map makers have as yet recorded few of its 10,000 villages; few persons have climbed more than a score of its thousand mountain peaks; and archaeologists have as yet probed only a handful of its hundreds of rock shelters. Those coming to Maseru will find an interesting people and a very rewarding tour.

The Host Country

Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 10/21/2003 7:16 AM

Lesotho (Leh‑SOO‑too) is a landlocked country in the east‑central part of the Republic of South Africa. It is bounded on the north and west by the Free State of South Africa; on the south by the Eastern Cape Province; and on the east by KwaZulu Natal Province.

Slightly larger than Maryland and slightly smaller than Belgium, Lesotho covers an area of 11,116 square miles. It is roughly in the form of a circle, 125 miles across. The western one‑quarter of Lesotho is lowlands where the altitude varies from 5,000 to 6,000 feet above sea level. This is the country’s main agricultural zone and contains most of the population. The rest of the country is composed of highlands that rise to 11,400 feet in the Drakensburg Range, which forms the eastern boundary with KwaZulu Natal. Thabana‑Ntlenyana, the highest peak in Southern Africa at 11,424 feet, is just inside Lesotho’s eastern border near the Sani Pass.

Maseru (Muh‑SEH‑roo), the capital, has an estimated population of 150,000. It is located 5,000 feet above sea level on the Caledon River, which forms the western boundary between Lesotho and the Free State in South Africa. Surrounded by scenic bluffs and mesas, Maseru has a small central business district and several neighborhoods with good housing. Beyond that, the city sprawls for miles with collections of small tin‑roofed houses and roadside businesses. The surrounding countryside is severely affected by soil erosion, and despite sufficient water, the lowlands have little natural vegetation for much of the year. The landscape, mountainous, bare, dotted with picturesque villages, is starkly beautiful.

The climate is temperate year round. Rainfall, occurring mostly from October to April, ranges from 24 inches a year over most of the lowlands to over 40 inches a year in the mountains. A windy season during August and September occasionally brings dust storms.

Average daytime temperatures are in the high 80°F in summer and can reach 100°F in Maseru. In winter, daytime temperatures average in the mid 60°F and at night sometimes drop to the teens in Maseru. Nighttime temperatures are regularly below freezing in June, July and August. Temperatures in the mountains are even more extreme with snowfalls common in winter. The humidity year round is quite low.

Population Last Updated: 10/21/2003 7:17 AM

The country of Lesotho is inhabited by the Basotho (Bah‑SOO‑too) people. The singular of Basotho is Mosotho (Muh‑SOO‑too). The language is Sesotho (Seh‑SOO‑too).

The Basotho combine a respect for tradition, symbolized by the hereditary Head of State, with a keen interest in their modern institutions. Their history as a nation is a source of considerable pride. Since the days of their national founder, Moshoeshoe I (Muh‑SCHWAY‑schway) who ruled from 1824 to 1870, the Basotho have maintained their territorial integrity, and since 1966, their national sovereignty.

The population in Lesotho is now slightly over 2.1 million. Another three million ethnic Basotho live in South Africa. English is Lesotho's second language and is widely spoken, especially in the lowlands. The average citizen has a relatively low standard of living: the average annual per capita income is about $430. There are small communities of North Americans, Europeans, South Asians and Chinese in the country.

Public Institutions Last Updated: 10/21/2003 7:24 AM

Lesotho, the former British Protectorate of Basutoland (1868‑1966), became independent as a constitutional monarchy on October 4, 1966. Unfortunately, the democratic elections of 1965 were not repeated, and Liboa Jonathan dissolved the Parliament and seized power in 1970. He was overthrown by a military coup in 1986. A second ruling military council ceded power to an elected civilian government on April 2, 1993, marking the return of democratic rule to Lesotho. King Letsie III is the constitutional monarch of Lesotho, but the Prime Minister and his Cabinet hold executive power.

In September 1998, there was a civil disturbance in Maseru and other western towns. Substantial portions of the downtown Maseru business area were burned. Troops from SADC intervened and restored order. Businesses are currently being rebuilt and the city center is coming back to life. Roads in and around the capital are being repaved and upgraded.

The hereditary chieftanship is an important traditional institution to which many Basotho look for leadership and guidance. The king is paramount chief. The principal chiefs of Lesotho act as the king’s agents in some local and community government matters and oversee the allocation and leasing of land. All land is owned by the king and may only be leased.

The Christian churches (Roman Catholic, Lesotho Evangelical, Anglican, African Methodist Episcopal and Assemblies of God) are significant institutions in Lesotho and play a prominent role in the national educational system. There is an international interdenominational church active in Maseru. The Islamic and Bahai faiths also play significant roles in the religious affairs of the country.

Various charitable and development assistance organizations are active and include Save the Children Fund, the Red Cross Society, CARE, Caritas, Habitat for Humanity and others. The UN Development Program provides about 200 technical assistance experts. The European Union, Ireland Aid, and the UK (DIFD) also have large development assistance programs.

Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 10/21/2003 7:39 AM

The town of Morija, located about 25 miles outside of Maseru, boasts an exceptional museum — the Morija Museum and Archives is a treasure house of Lesotho history. It has a wonderful collection of fossilized remains of prehistoric reptiles, including dinosaurs. Traditional shields and spears adorn the walls, and two examples of the Khau, the Basotho equivalent of the Victoria Cross, are on display. Jewelry, worn in the 19th century by wealthy people, particularly those of Nguni origin, is also on display. The museum abounds with traditional clothing and implements. Morija is also the site of the annual Cultural Arts Festival in October. Participants from all other Lesotho (and southern Africa) gather for the four-day festival centered around Lesotho Independence Day.

The Basotho have long valued education. The National University of Lesotho (NUL), formerly shared by Botswana and Swaziland, was nationalized in 1975. NUL provides for Lesotho’s higher education needs in humanities, physical sciences, law, economics and social sciences. Programs are also developing in agriculture and technical education. NUL is located in Roma, approximately 20 miles from Maseru.

Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 10/21/2003 7:42 AM

Because of its location, Lesotho is heavily dependent on the Republic of South Africa for trade and employment opportunities. A significant portion of Lesotho’s income comes from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), of which Lesotho, Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland and South Africa are members. Most private commercial enterprises are small. Attractive wall hangings, rugs, pottery and other handicrafts are produced locally.

The mines of South Africa still provide employment to Basotho men, but not nearly as much as in the recent past. The garment and construction industries have experienced important growth in recent years, but the agricultural sector —livestock and subsistence farming—remains the largest domestic source of employment. Lesotho benefits greatly from AGOA, the African Growth and Opportunity Act, since it eliminates tariffs on goods already competitively produced in Lesotho for export to the U.S. The bottom line is that Lesotho has a serious unemployment/under—employment problem that is not susceptible to easy solutions.

Lesotho and South Africa are engaged in a massive public works project to capture and pump Lesotho water to the Johannesburg area. Katse Dam was completed in 1998 along with a tunnel to transfer water north to Gauteng Province. A second dam, Mohale, is nearing completion with a tunnel to transfer water from behind this dam over to the Katse Reservoir. Scheduled to last through 2030, the Lesotho Highlands Development Project (LHDP) will absorb over $5 billion of capital investment. In 1998 the country began receiving royalties for water transferred through LHDP tunnels and pipelines to Gauteng.


Automobiles Last Updated: 10/21/2003 7:45 AM

Americans have no special problems licensing and registering their vehicles in Lesotho. Leaded and unleaded gasoline are available in Lesotho and South Africa.

A wide range of family and four‑wheel‑drive vehicles is available locally. Although new vehicles are slightly more expensive than in the U.S., used vehicles are available at prices comparable to or better than those in the U.S. When imported vehicles are sold to individuals without duty‑free privileges, a 50% duty is charged if the vehicle has been in the country for less than 2 years. Since left‑hand‑drive cars are no longer allowed to be imported into South Africa, the prospective market for sale of a left‑hand‑drive vehicle is limited to Lesotho. In all of southern Africa, traffic moves on the left side of the road. All things considered, a prospective resident of Lesotho would be better off with a right‑hand‑drive car as it is easier to see past the car in front when overtaking. Nevertheless, left‑hand‑drive cars may be safely driven here.

Most German and Japanese and some American cars can be serviced in Maseru. However, standards of service vary from good to poor, depending on the particular vehicle and on the particular mechanic. Frequently, parts for American cars must be ordered from the U.S., and extended waits for repairs are commonplace. Some prefer to take their vehicles to South Africa for servicing (Ladybrand is 12 miles and Bloemfontein is 90 miles away). Dealer service for the most popular makes and models is available, but bear in mind that a car built for the U.S. market will be quite different from the same car built for the South African market. Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mazda, Isuzu, Mercedes Benz, BMW, VW, and Opel are all popular in the South African market.

Third‑party liability insurance is unnecessary in southern Africa because it is provided automatically through a tax on gasoline purchases. However, third‑party property insurance must be purchased locally. By American standards, it is inexpensive. Collision and comprehensive insurance should be purchased through one of the U.S. firms that specializes in overseas automobile insurance (e.g., Harry Jannette or Clements).

Local Transportation Last Updated: 8/31/2001 6:00 PM

About 1,000 miles of Lesotho’s roads are paved, including the major north‑south road and the road to Mokhotlong in the east. A few main rural highways compare to U.S. two‑lane rural roads, but lane markings, signs, shoulders, and guardrails are not to U.S. standards. Unfenced livestock poses a particular danger. Other roads are rough, and mountain travel outside of the dry season requires a four‑wheel‑drive vehicle. Traffic in Lesotho as well as in the rest of southern Africa keeps to the left. Public transportation consists of government‑owned buses and private taxis (actually minivans). Intercity travel at night is not recommended. The post discourages use of public transportation because it is unsafe.

Regional Transportation Last Updated: 10/21/2003 7:53 AM

There is only rail freight service into Lesotho from South Africa. Bloemfontein (90 miles from Maseru) is the nearest place to board a passenger train. Moshoeshoe I International Airport is 12 miles outside of Maseru. The only air service is provided by South African Airlink between Maseru and Johannesburg International Airport. SA Airlink flies Jetstream 41 turboprop planes into Maseru. These flights are often overbooked and connecting travelers are advised to reconfirm their onward flight to Maseru as soon as possible after arrival in Johannesburg. Luggage is often left behind in Johannesburg, especially if particularly large. Travelers may also fly to Bloemfontein and arrange road transportation on to Maseru.


Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 8/31/2001 6:00 PM

Acceptable telephone and cellular service is available in the larger population centers, but much of the interior can only be reached by radio operated by the police or missionary organizations. Cellular coverage for many parts of the country is spotty. Good international telephone and fax service is available in all of the larger towns.

Internet Last Updated: 10/21/2003 8:02 AM

There are few Intenet Service Providers (ISP) in Lesotho. At the moment the very best service possible is 54K. Of course, connection speeds are dependent upon a number of factors including phone lines, which are sometimes degraded. Connection fees are relatively low compared to the U.S.

Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 10/21/2003 8:05 AM

The pouch is the most dependable routing for mail. An airpouch is dispatched to Washington, D.C. every Tuesday and Thursday and reaches the U.S. in about 2 weeks. Although quite expensive, rapid small package service to the U.S. is provided by DHL and FedEx from offices in Maseru (minimum 3-day service). The post is serviced by a courier once a month. Incoming pouches arrive twice a week. APO is not available. For those without pouch privileges, post office mail boxes are available for rent at the post office in Ladybrand just across the border from Maseru in South Africa.

Pouch mail should be addressed as follows:

(Name) 2340 Maseru Place Dulles, VA 20189–2340

Note that this address meets UPS requirements for a street address. This means that as long as a package is under the maximum pouch size limit, a person at post with duty‑free privileges can order goods from the U.S. and utilize UPS for shipment to Washington.

International mail should be addressed as follows:

(Name) American Embassy P.O. Box 333 Maseru 100, Kingdom of Lesotho Southern Africa

Radio and TV Last Updated: 10/21/2003 8:18 AM

In Maseru, 10 FM stations and 4 AM stations can be heard. The BBC transmits on FM 24 hours a day. Other stations have programming in English, Sesotho, and Afrikaans. Some of the South African stations have programming very similar to easy listening stations in the U.S. The videotapes that are available locally are formatted in the British PAL system. A multisystem TV, which can be purchased in South Africa, would be quite useful in that it will receive local and cable TV as well as play local and U.S. videos. Since the nearest real cinema is located 90 miles from Maseru, a TV/VCR player has the potential to provide considerable entertainment. Lesotho has no TV station of its own, but rebroadcasts news/programming from BBC and other African countries. South African TV (SABC 1 and SABC 2) is multilingual and is received on British PAL system frequencies. An inexpensive outside TV antenna is required in Maseru. Programs in English and Afrikaans alternate throughout the day and are interspersed with programs in native languages. Shows are usually South African, British or American in origin. Also available is satellite TV service (DSTV) from South Africa. About 40 channels are available including CNN, BBC, SkyNews, CNBC, ESPN, local sports and entertainment (National Geographic, Discovery, BBC Prime, movies, food and fashion). The DSTV costs $300 for a dish and setup, with subscription cost at approximately $50 per month.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated: 10/21/2003 8:19 AM

One government‑sponsored and four independent English‑language newspapers are published weekly in Maseru. South African dailies are available, but their coverage of international news is spotty. The South African Weekly Mail and Guardian has been internationally acclaimed for its excellent reporting.

Many popular South African, British and American magazines are available locally. Magazines published/printed in South Africa are fairly inexpensive, while imported publications usually sell for more than twice the price printed on the cover. Local bookstores and variety shops have a good selection of magazines. Paperback and hard cover books are available at several bookstores in Bloemfontein; they are, in general, more expensive than in the U.S. is a good alternative.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities Last Updated: 10/21/2003 8:22 AM

The post is served by a regional medical officer in Pretoria. A small Health Unit is staffed part time by a contract nurse. The Health Unit is equipped for routine medical emergencies. Physician care is available in Ladybrand, South Africa (approximately 20 minutes away by car depending on the border crossing).

Specialist care and hospitalization require travel to Bloemfontein (90 minutes drive). Bloemfontein has several hospitals and the standard of medical services provided is high. The government‑operated hospital in Maseru is not recommended.

Community Health Last Updated: 10/21/2003 8:23 AM

Most of the central part of Maseru is connected to a central sewage system. Garbage is collected once a week in most of the capital and is disposed of in landfills. Although Maseru’s tapwater is generally potable, post recommends treatment before drinking it. Post supplies reverse osmosis units to all homes.

Lesotho’s various public health problems are most serious in the rural areas. During the rainy season, heavy runoff contaminates drinking water supplies and causes outbreaks of intestinal diseases. There is no malaria in Lesotho. Disease incidence in Maseru is relatively low. The most serious public health concerns are HIV/AIDS, road accidents and tuberculosis, which is highly contagious at a certain stage.

Preventive Measures Last Updated: 10/21/2003 8:25 AM

There are no required immunizations for entry into Lesotho. However, the State Department recommends that employees, dependents and visitors be immunized for Hepatitis A and B, typhoid fever, tetanus and diphtheria. Although yellow fever is not endemic in Lesotho, proof of vaccination for that illness may be required for those entering from countries in which yellow fever does exist (other parts of sub‑Saharan Africa and certain Latin American countries).

Some poisonous snakes and scorpions are found in Lesotho, especially in the warmer months. Common‑sense precautions should be taken. Children should be warned periodically about the possibility of encountering these critters in the garden.

It may take the new arrival a few weeks to adjust to Lesotho’s altitude—just over 5,000 feet. Some people experience headaches, dizziness and a general lethargy, but these symptoms soon pass.

Although houses in Maseru have no central heat, post’s residences have fireplaces, electric radiators and split A/C heating units. The humidity is quite low, especially in the winter, and post provides humidifiers for the residences. Depending on your preference, electric blankets or down comforters would be good items to have during the winter.

Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 10/17/2003 6:55 AM

The Embassy currently has two eligible family member positions: the Ambassador’s Special Self‑help Coordinator and the Democracy and Human Rights Coordinator. Family members are occasionally hired for short‑term projects. Part‑time and full‑time jobs are available in the Maseru area, but salaries are extremely low. Most jobs available are in the educational, accounting, computer and secretarial fields. Day care and private tutoring are always needed. There are opportunities for volunteer work in the campaign against HIV/AIDS.

American Embassy - Maseru

Post City Last Updated: 8/31/2001 6:00 PM

Maseru, the capital of the “mile high” Kingdom of Lesotho, is a small, bustling city largely dependent on South Africa for its support. After its foundation as a police camp in 1869, Maseru grew slowly at first. Its population, still less than 1,000 in 1906, increased slowly to 14,000 by 1966 and is now about 150,000. In 1966, the only paved road in the country was one small, tarred road through the center of town, together with a small spur road to the railway station. Now there are large four‑lane divided boulevards in town, street lights in most areas, and paving on the roads to most of the larger towns up‑country.

Security Last Updated: 10/21/2003 8:33 AM

This is a critical crime threat post. Petty crimes are commonplace and foreigners in particular are targeted. All Embassy residences have security guards and are equipped with alarms and safehavens. Walking alone at any time - day or night - is not recommended. Vehicles should be driven with doors locked and windows up.

The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 10/21/2003 8:36 AM

The U.S. Mission in Lesotho consists of the State Department and the Peace Corps. The Embassy opened in 1967 and the first Peace Corps volunteers arrived in December 1967.

The Embassy has an Ambassador who is supported by a DCM, a Management/Security Officer, Consular/Public Diplomacy Officer, an American Office Manager and 30 locally engaged staff (LES) employees. The Embassy’s attractive one‑story building is a half‑mile from the central business district.

The Peace Corps has four direct-hire employees—Director, Associate Director, Administrative Officer and Safety/Security Officer. There are also two LES Associate Directors and 20 additional locally engaged staff. Currently, about 90 volunteers are working in the country. Peace Corps offices are located very close to the center of town.

The Mission receives regional support from Embassy Gaborone, Embassy Pretoria, and Consulate General Johannesburg. Financial and payroll services are provided by the Financial Services Center in Charleston, South Carolina.


Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 8/31/2001 6:00 PM

Temporary accommodation is available at the Lesotho Sun Hotel and the Maseru Sun Hotel. Both hotels have restaurants and the food is quite good.

Permanent Housing Last Updated: 10/21/2003 8:38 AM

Furnished Government housing is provided for all Embassy and Peace Corps direct‑hire employees.

The Chief of Mission Residence (CMR) is a single-story house with three bedrooms, four baths, living room, formal dining room, kitchen and den. The residence has a swimming pool and a pool house with guest bedroom and two baths. There is a one‑car carport, domestic’s quarters, and spacious grounds.

The Deputy Chief’s Residence (DCR) is a single‑story house located next to the Embassy. It has four bedrooms, three baths, living room, dining room, family room, kitchen, domestic’s quarters, garage and very large grounds.

The spaces at both the EMR and the DCR are well arranged for entertaining. Each has a patio in the back, ideal for entertaining in the warm weather.

The Management Officer’s home is a single‑story house with a living room, dining room, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, kitchen and sun room. It also has a guest wing with two bedrooms, bathroom, living room, domestic’s quarters and a small garage. The two‑acre property backs onto the Caledon River, the border with South Africa.

Other housing has three to four bedrooms, two to three baths, living room, dining room, kitchen, domestic’s quarters and garage. Some properties have a den or guest house.

Furnishings Last Updated: 10/17/2003 7:07 AM

Both Government‑owned and Government‑leased quarters are completely furnished. Furnishings include furniture, carpet, curtains, lamps, water purifier. With the exception of the EMR, closet space and storage facilities are less than those provided in a typical U.S. house. The Mission provides a Welcome Kit for use until an employee’s household effects arrive, and after HHE is shipped.

In addition to the above, the EMR is equipped with a radio/TV/ VCR/tape console, adequate representational supplies, bedding and linens, appropriate kitchen equipment and other household and yard effects. For more detailed information, contact M/OBO/IF or AF/EX/PMO.

Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 10/21/2003 8:43 AM

All Embassy houses have standard indoor plumbing facilities. The EMR has two fireplaces, the DCR has three. Houses are built of cement blocks and are not insulated, making them very cold in the winter. All other homes have at least one fireplace. Wood and coal are available locally. All Embassy houses have “split” air‑conditioning‑heating units and portable electric heaters. Electricity powers the hot water heaters in all the homes.

Electricity is 220v, 50 Hz, AC. Transformers are not needed for Government‑provided appliances. At least one transformer is supplied to each home. Power outages are fairly frequent (especially in the rainy season) and the quality of electrical power is low, with frequent surges and brief interruptions. All homes have back-up generators. During the rainy season, Lesotho experiences powerful lightning storms. The lightning wreaks havoc on electronic equipment and computers. Post recommends heavy‑duty surge protectors or uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) for home entertainment and computer equipment.

Residences are equipped with a refrigerator, freezer (or second refrigerator), stove, washer, dryer, microwave, vacuum cleaner and/or carpet sweeper, and a telephone.

Food Last Updated: 10/21/2003 8:45 AM

A substantial variety of food is available in the local market in Maseru. There are two large modern supermarkets in Maseru (ShopRite). Most Embassy personnel shop for food in Ladybrand, which has a Spar and a ShopRite (not your U.S. Shop‑Rite), or in Bloemfontein, which has many supermarkets, some of which sell fine gourmet fruits, vegetables, dairy goods and groceries at reasonable prices. Local butchers supply high‑quality meat cut to order and will deliver to a Maseru residence. Packaged meat is available in the supermarkets. Food quality is about as high as in the U.S. High‑quality South African wines are available in great variety at comparatively low prices. Several bakeries provide a choice of bread, rolls and cakes. Several kinds of frozen fish are available. There is no need to bring food to Maseru, except perhaps for a few comfort items like American condiments, breakfast cereals, Crisco, or chocolate chips.

Clothing Last Updated: 10/17/2003 7:15 AM

There is a good selection of clothing available in the shops in Ladybrand and Bloemfontein, however, most styles are not to American taste. Selection is more limited in Maseru. In better clothing stores prices are similar to those in the U.S. It is difficult to find women’s shoes made to American standards. In South African women’s shoe sizing, the narrowest shoes are in a B width and the largest size in most stores is 8 (about U.S. 9 1/2).

An alternative to local shopping for clothing is to order from catalogs or order on‑line. Goods ordered from the U.S. take about 3 weeks to arrive at post.

It is essential to have heavy clothing for winter. In Maseru, winter temperatures are typically brisk and often go below freezing at night. Up‑country, sudden snowstorms are common and travel is hazardous. In summer, temperatures occasionally reach the high eighties and lightweight clothing is most comfortable.

Women Last Updated: 10/17/2003 7:16 AM

Basotho women generally dress quite conservatively, with skirts well below the knees and tops with sleeves. Only modern young local women in Maseru will wear slacks, jeans, or short skirts. Although South African men and women often wear shorts out in public, it would be more culturally sensitive to dress more conservatively.

Children Last Updated: 8/31/2001 6:00 PM

Children’s clothing comes in a wide variety of styles and colors. Children’s shoes are quite inexpensive. Many Maseru residents shop at the mall stores in Bloemfontein. If a family member must have a certain type of jeans or other clothing item, bring extra ones from the U.S.

Office Attire Last Updated: 8/31/2001 6:00 PM

Embassy employees and civil servants in Maseru generally wear suits and ties to work. Black‑tie occasions seldom arise. Cocktail and dinner parties are most common, for which men and women wear business suits. Many social occasions call for “smart casual” attire.

Supplies and Services

Supplies Last Updated: 10/17/2003 7:17 AM

Basic toiletries, over‑the‑counter drugs and common household items are available in Maseru and in South Africa. Many are familiar U.S. name brands manufactured in South Africa. Prices are generally lower than in the U.S. Certain American brands of cosmetics are available, but they are significantly more expensive than in the U.S. It is advisable to bring cosmetics with you. If you sew, fabric is available but notions and patterns are in limited variety. This would be another mail order item.

A wide variety of cigarette brands, including American brands manufactured in South Africa, can be purchased at reasonable prices. Excellent South African beer and wine is available in Maseru. The Embassy can place bulk liquor orders for employees with duty-free privileges from the Lesotho Liquor Commission.

Basic Services Last Updated: 10/17/2003 7:18 AM

There are several hairdressing salons for men and women in Maseru. Many men and women prefer to go to Ladybrand or Bloemfontein for hairdressing and other personal services. Drycleaning is available in Maseru and Ladybrand but there is some risk to the clothes in sending them for drycleaning. Tailoring and dressmaking services of good quality are available. Shoe repair services are available.

Domestic Help Last Updated: 8/31/2001 6:00 PM

Domestic help is readily available—full or part time, live in or out. Skill levels and English proficiency vary, as does ability to cook. The going wage for a domestic is quite low. Gardeners are available to help one take advantage of the soil and the climate here. Large flower and vegetable gardens are common.

Religious Activities Last Updated: 8/31/2001 6:00 PM

According to the most recent survey (1996), 49% of the population is Roman Catholic; 39% belongs to the Lesotho Evangelical Church (the independent daughter church of the French Protestant Mission); 8% are Anglicans; 2% are other.


Dependent Education Last Updated: 8/31/2001 6:00 PM

The school year is divided into three terms beginning in August and ending in late June. A number of pre-schools are available that enroll children from age two years. No nursery care for younger expatriate children is available publicly; usually a nanny is hired for the home. The Maseru Preparatory School is the largest English medium primary school in Maseru. It has an enrollment of over 300 students of 37 different nationalities. Generally, the Ginn (British) system of instruction and examination is used, with supplemental materials supplied by other governments. The school offers the equivalent of U.S. grades kindergarten through grade 5, with class sizes of 20‑25 children. Afternoon school for grades 3, 4, and 5 consists of study, clubs, and sports activities. School fees are within the post education allowance. A uniform is required and is available locally.

The American International School of Lesotho opened in September 1991. An American system of instruction is used, and currently there is a staff of 5 teachers and several teacher assistants, with an enrollment of 63 students. Some grades are combined and the structure is not rigid between grade levels. The school currently offers kindergarten through grade 7, with class size limited to 15. Tuition and fees are within the educational allowance for post. No uniform is required.

Machabeng College (high school) offers the equivalent of American junior high and high school (grades 6–12) as well as an International Baccalaureate (IB) program. The British system of instruction and examination is followed and the standards of the school are high. A uniform is required and is available at the school.

Recreation and Social Life

Sports Last Updated: 10/17/2003 7:20 AM

Tennis, squash, soccer, cricket and golf are the most widely played sports in Maseru. Occasionally, golf, tennis and squash tournaments and cricket or soccer matches are held in season. There is a challenging 9‑hole golf course (with 18 tee boxes) next door to the Embassy. Rental horses and riding lessons are available at stables near Ladybrand.

Memberships are available at local hotels: tennis, swimming and children’s playgrounds are available. At the Lesotho Sun, only Interclub or Sunfriends members and their children may use the swimming pool. There is no public swimming pool in Maseru. The Maseru Club offers tennis and squash, and has an Italian restaurant. There are several public tennis courts in Maseru that are available on a pay‑per‑use basis or by joining the club. The Embassy also has a small exercise room with cardio equipment and some free weights as well as a tennis court.

A limited amount of sporting goods are available in Maseru; a much wider selection can be found in Bloemfontein. American sports equipment can be located with some effort, but it would be better to bring equipment from the U.S. Some possibilities for snow skiing exist in the mountains of Lesotho, but no formal facilities are developed, and snow is rarely adequate. Water sports are popular in South Africa. Dams for sailing are within an hour’s drive of Maseru. The lake behind Katse Dam is quite large, but is not yet developed from a water sports standpoint.

Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 10/20/2003 2:33 AM

Lesotho is famous for pony‑trekking. There are a number of resorts at which ponies and guides can be hired; trips can range from 2 hours to 5 days. Pony treks provide fabulous views of the mountains as well as views of some of the prehistoric cave paintings.

Another popular Lesotho activity is fishing. Lesotho has trout in many of its mountain streams. Several fishing spots in the mountains offer permanent, though basic, accommodation and are accessible by car, light plane or horseback. Hiking and camping are available in some of the most spectacular African mountain scenery. One example is Semonkong, where a magnificent 600‑feet waterfall cascades over the edge of a cliff. It is one of the longest free falls of water in the world. There is a hotel within walking distance of the falls.

The mountains of Lesotho provide ample opportunity for sightseeing and outdoor recreation. Bushman paintings and prehistoric dinosaur footprints can be found in many parts of Lesotho, some only a short drive from Maseru. With a four‑wheel‑drive vehicle, one can drive out to Mokhotlong and on through the Sani Pass, which is very near to Thabana‑Ntlenyana, the highest peak in Southern Africa.

Swaziland, with its rolling hills and green countryside, is a seven‑hour drive from Maseru. Wildlife parks, curios and casinos are among the attractions that draw visitors there. The Ezulwini Valley has one of the best handicraft markets in southern Africa.

Botswana is an eight‑hour drive from Maseru. The Okavango Delta is still the least‑developed wildlife reserve in southern Africa. Camps can be reached by four-wheel drive, plane or native canoe. Tourist firms operate from Gaborone and Maun.

Zimbabwe offers many game reserves, some of which are quite inexpensive. Victoria Falls, Lake Karibu and the Great Zimbabwe ruins (an archaeological site in the southern part of the country) are popular attractions. One needs to get an update on the current security situation before proceeding to Zimbabwe.

South Africa offers a multitude of tourist possibilities from beaches to mountains to cities. Cape Town is fourteen hours south and west of Maseru; Johannesburg is five hours away to the north; and Durban is six hours southeast of Maseru. Bloemfontein (90 minutes away) provides good weekend outings to the zoo, museums, malls and the occasional play or ballet.

Kruger National Park in South Africa on the Mozambique border is still the most visited game park in all of Southern Africa. It offers 12 camps for visitors and the best chance to spot thousands of animals even on a weekend trip. Kruger is also the home of a multitude of species of birds. Bring your binoculars and bird book. The park is about 10 hours from Maseru.

Entertainment Last Updated: 10/20/2003 2:29 AM

All the hotels offer occasional entertainment sponsored by various organizations in Maseru. The Lesotho Sun Hotel offers a limited variety of films (DVDs projected on a small screen), usually within one‑to‑two years after release in the U.S. Alliance Francaise offers videos and cultural presentations. Various social clubs, such as Rotary and Lions, have chapters with regular meetings and community projects. There are a number of daytime social groups and charity organizations to get involved with if one is not working outside the home. There is a very active chapter of the Hash House Harriers in Maseru. Members meet to run on Sunday mornings (winter) or Monday afternoons (summer).

Organized entertainment for children is limited. Little League softball is sometimes available. Music, art and sports lessons are offered, depending on who in the community is available to teach. Piano lessons are offered at a new music academy in Ladybrand.

Social Activities Last Updated: 8/31/2001 6:00 PM

Americans will have some social contact with Basotho, but the majority of socializing in Maseru will be with other expatriates. The United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, European Union, United Nations and the People’s Republic of China have Missions in Lesotho. Generally, social life, as in many other Foreign Service posts, is what each individual makes it. You have to make your own fun.

Official Functions Last Updated: 8/31/2001 6:00 PM

Business cards are useful in Maseru. Courtesy calls are normally made on a limited number of Lesotho Government officials and on members of the diplomatic corps. Business attire is the appropriate dress for most official functions.

Special Information Last Updated: 8/31/2001 6:00 PM

Post Orientation Program

No formal post orientation program is offered because of the small size of the Mission. Post orientation is an on‑the‑job process. No language training is required, although learning to exchange greetings and pleasantries in Sesotho is much appreciated.

Notes For Travelers

Getting to the Post Last Updated: 8/31/2001 6:00 PM

There are daily flights to Maseru and Bloemfontein from Johannesburg International Airport. Travelers with an overnight layover in Johannesburg en route to Maseru should book a room well in advance at the Holiday Inn at the airport. There is regular minivan service between the airport and the hotel. There is also a transit hotel inside the terminal building. Service is very basic but economical and convenient if one is making a direct connection outside of South Africa. It is a Protea Hotel and can be booked through a travel agent.

Shipment of HHE to Maseru by sea should be consigned and marked as follows:

(Name) c/o Rohlig/Grindrod(Pty) Ltd. P.O. Box 4818 Durban 4000, RSA Tel: (031) 365‑2258 Fax: (031) 304‑3738

for onward shipment to:

Elliott International 17 Lioli Road, Industrial Area Maseru West 105, Lesotho Administrative Officer American Embassy Maseru, Lesotho

Original bills of lading should be sent to American Embassy, Maseru so that clearance documents can be prepared. An information copy should be sent to the American Consulate General Durban for information purposes. The original packer/shipper should be instructed that the liftvans need to be well waterproofed.

Airfreight should be steel‑banded and marked as follows:

(Name) c/o Rohlig Airfreight Johannesburg Intl Airport P.O. Box 1755 Kempton Park 1620, R.S.A. Attn: Mrs. van Rensburg Tel: (011) 923‑0400 Fax: (011) 974‑3808

for onward shipment to:

Administrative Officer American Embassy Maseru, Lesotho

Post recommends full replacement value insurance coverage on HHE and UAB. This insurance is available through various U.S. firms, including USAA, Jannette and Clements.

Customs, Duties, and Passage

Customs and Duties Last Updated: 8/31/2001 6:00 PM

Customs and quarantine regulations are essentially the same for Lesotho and South Africa. Duty of 100% is charged on a vehicle sold to a person without diplomatic privileges if the sale takes place within two years of the vehicle’s duty‑free entry into the Southern Africa Customs Union area.

Passage Last Updated: 8/31/2001 6:00 PM

Residential permits for Lesotho can be obtained after your arrival. Most travel to and from Lesotho requires transit passage through South Africa. Tourist (blue) passport holders do not need a South African visa. Recent changes in South African immigration regulations permit Americans with Diplomatic (black) or Official (red) passports to enter South Africa without an entry visa either. These changes make it easier to transit Johannesburg International Airport. Immediately after arrival new people assigned to Lesotho will be able to obtain a border concession which will permit them hassle‑free crossing of the border with South Africa. One only needs to pause to show the border concession to the immigration official and then continue driving. The border concession is only good for crossing back and forth at Maseru Bridge. If one intends to cross other border posts before returning to Maseru, one must “stamp in” to South Africa for subsequent computer‑tracked departure.

Pets Last Updated: 8/31/2001 6:00 PM

Because of frequent delays in airfreight arrivals, pets should travel with you on the plane. Check the quarantine laws in countries in which you plan to stop. (Britain, for example, has very strict laws regarding animal quarantine.) It is best not to layover anywhere when traveling with pets. Animals arriving in Lesotho must be accompanied by a certificate of good health issued within the six months previous to arrival and a current rabies vaccination, given within 30 days prior to arrival. A Lesotho import permit can be obtained after arrival. An import permit for South Africa will be issued 6 to 8 weeks prior to travel by:

Veterinary Services Private Bag X138 Pretoria 001 R.S.A.

Additionally, all pets entering South Africa must travel as manifested air cargo, not as unaccompanied air baggage. If your pet arrives without the proper documentation or as unaccompanied baggage, it will be denied entry. You may want to employ the services of a pet expediter:

Animal Travel Agency (Pty) Ltd. P.O. Box 1478 Greenpark Bldg. Corner 11th Ave & Wessel Rd. Rivonia, R.S.A. Tel: (011) 803‑1883

The agency can obtain the necessary airport permit for South Africa, can meet the pets at the airport, can handle the formalities, and can arrange for kennel facilities, if necessary.

Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 10/20/2003 2:35 AM

The Chief of Mission must approve importation of firearms by all U.S. Mission employees prior to arrival. Any assigned employee wishing to import a personally owned firearm must advise the Managment Officer, well in advance of travel, of the make, model and serial number of the firearm to be imported. The employee must also provide a justification for importing the weapon(s), e.g., hunting, recreation, etc. The Management Officer will request Chief of Mission approval for the import and will advise the employee of the COM’s decision. After approval, weapons should be shipped to post in the employee’s HHE shipment. Weapons must be shipped unloaded, and, if possible, disassembled and packed in separate boxes. The bolt, slide or cylinder should be packed separately from the frame or receiver. Traveling to post with weapons or ammunition in accompanied baggage is not recommended.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated: 10/20/2003 2:42 AM

The loti (singular) or plural maloti (M), Lesotho’s currency, is pegged one‑to‑one to the South African rand. The rand is accepted in Lesotho, while the maloti is not accepted in most of South Africa, except for a few border towns. The commercial banks in Maseru (Standard Bank, Nedbank, and Lesotho Bank) offer the same services available in the U.S., but charge fees for almost every transaction. Foreign exchange transactions are possible through the Standard Bank. Banks throughout South Africa have ATMs which will accept American ATM cards and provide rand. Security concerns must be taken into account when using ATM machines as there is the possibility of a thief grabbing the money as it comes out of the machine.

Accommodation exchange is provided at the Embassy to employees and TDY travelers. Dollar checks/currency and travelers checks may be cashed for maloti/rand.

Lesotho uses the Metric system of weights and measures i.e., kilometers, liters, kilograms, meters and degrees Celsius.

Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 10/20/2003 2:48 AM

Household goods, e.g., groceries, appliances and clothes, may be brought in from South Africa. GSO, with advance notice, will assist with clearing larger items. A Value Added Tax (VAT) was instituted on 1 July 2003 to conform with Southern African Customs Union (SACU) protocol. Embassy employees may file for VAT refund for purchases made in both Lesotho and South Africa. The process usually takes a couple of weeks. Official members of the diplomatic community are issued tax-exempt card for Lesotho purchases; however, not all vendors accept the card.

Recommended Reading Last Updated: 8/31/2001 6:00 PM

These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

Bardell, John E. and James H. Cobbe. Lesotho: Dilemmas of Dependence in Southern Africa. Westview Press: Boulder, Colorado.

Becker, Peter. Hill of Destiny: The Life and Times of Moshesh, Ruler of the Basotho. Penguin Books.

Gill, Steven. A Brief History of Lesotho. Available at local bookstores in Maseru.

Haliburton, Gordon. Historical Dictionary of Lesotho. Scarecrow Press, Inc: Metuchen, New Jersey, 1977.

Murray, Calvin. Families Divided: The Impact of Migrant Labor in Lesotho. Cambridge University Press.

Thompson, Leonard. Survival in Two Worlds: Moshoeshoe of Lesotho, 1786-1870. Clarendon Press: Oxford, England, 1975.

Local Holidays Last Updated: 8/31/2001 6:00 PM

The following local holidays are observed in Mozambique.

New Year’s Day January 1 Moshoeshoe’s Day March 11 Heroes’ Day April 4 Good Friday Moveable Easter Monday Moveable Worker’s Day May 1 Ascension Day Moveable King’s Birthday July 17 Independence Day October 4 Christmas Day December 25 Boxing Day December 26

Adapted from material published by the U.S. Department of State. While some of the information is specific to U.S. missions abroad, the post report provides a good overview of general living conditions in the host country for diplomats from all nations.
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