Lesotho today is a small enclave of African-ruled territory completely surrounded by the Republic of South Africa. Although its independence is recognised by the United Nations, it is as firmly enmeshed in the Republic’s economy as any of the Bantustans, and in an equally subordinate position. It is desperately poor, too overpopulated to feed itself, and at any given time nearly half the able-bodied men are absent—factory, farm or mine workers in South Africa. Yet the Sotho differ from the Africans of the Republic in retaining significantly more of their cultural heritage and social cohesion. That they have done so is largely the result of the fact that they were able to escape from magisterial settler rule after little more than a decade and revert to the control of their chiefs under British protection. Whatever the deficiencies of that system (and they were numerous) it kept Sotho territory unfragmented and forced the Sotho to retain their customs and law to a far greater extent than the Africans in the Republic. This book is an examination of the first explosive years of Lesotho (Basutoland) under magisterial rule, in which an attempt was made to effect a rapid change in Sotho society by a combination of legislation and political manipulation.
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