Lesotho

Institutionalization of Ethnic Categories

Key Dates
Details/Documentation

Sources

Key Dates

  • 1818: Moshoeshoe I forms BaSotho kingdom
  • 1868: Basutoland placed under British protection
  • 1966: Basutoland gains independence and becomes Kingdom of Lesotho

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Details/Documentation

Race

Although, we do find evidence of the institutionalization of race categories in pre-independence Lesotho, this is limited compared with other countries in the region, and there is no institutionalization of such categories after independence.

The census recorded race on all censuses from 1904 to 1976, but the questions were removed subsequently. There are no records of implemented identification card requirements in Lesotho’s history.

Beginning in 1904, the colonial government prevented Africans from trading in wool and mohair, their major products, and this policy that lasted through 1950s (Kowet 1978: 94).

Following independence, policies of non-discrimination were emphasized. For example, the Race Relations Order of 1971, Section 3 states that, “No person shall be discriminated [against] in relation to access to any place of public resort or facilities or services of a public nature”.

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Language

We find even less evidence of the institutionalization of language categories.

Language was enumerated on the 1946 and 1956 censuses, but no other census asked a language question. At independence, Sesotho and English were both made official languages but because one is an indigenous language, and the other a “colonial” language, this is not a source of ethnic category institutionalization.

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Religion

While religion has been enumerated on the 1911, 1946, 1956, and 1976 censuses, we have found no other evidence of the institutionalization of religious categories by the state.

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Caste

None found

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Indigenous

None found

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Other ethnic, including tribe

The 1950 and 1960 censuses recorded tribe and language for African respondents, but ethnic questions were not asked on other censuses.

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Sources

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