Inside the massive country of South Africa, there is a tiny province which is an independent country. Completely surrounded on all sides by its much bigger neighbour, the Kingdom of Lesotho is only 30,000km in size, and has a population of just over 2 million. Small, with a high rate of poverty, the kingdom was originally united in 1822, and was originally a very disputed territory, with many Boers (South African settlers) claiming that the land had been abandoned by the natives and settling in the Matlekeng river area. Lesotho became involved in the Boer War between the Dutch colonials and the British, and eventually became a British Protectorate.
Lesotho did not become an independent country again until the 1960s, and by that time had lost a considerable area of territory, including a large amount of the Western territories which now make up the western region of South Africa. Although it is surrounded on all sides by the much larger country, Lesotho still keeps all of its independent functions, including the national language, Sesotho, and a constitutional monarchy. The king, prohibited from political activity, is only a figurehead, and the real ruler of the country is the Prime Minister. The country is mainly Christian, with a 50/50 division of Protestant and Catholic. There are also a smaller number of other religions, including indigenous and traditional African beliefs.
In recent years, there has been political activity on the part of the People’s Charter Movement, which calls for the annexation of Lesotho by South Africa, and partially a response to the growing AIDS epidemic in the smaller country. In addition, there is a high rate of unemployment, with two fifths of the population living below the UN poverty line. South Africa has so far rejected the idea that it should integrate Lesotho into its own population, although the two countries are inescapably linked economically.
Migrant workers from Lesotho to South Africa are common, particularly during the cooler months of the year, although migrants can spend up to 9 months of each year in the neighbouring country. Male migrants are likely to be employed as miners in South Africa for several months at a time. In the country itself, female workers are employed to make clothes, and Lesotho has become one of the largest African exporters of garments to the US. It is estimated that there are around 50,000 workers, mostly female, employed in clothing manufacturing. Large numbers of both female and male workers are involved in government offices and public administration.
Lesotho also exports diamonds, found in the many mines around the country. Although they have been affected by the 2008 recession, which lead to many Western countries reducing their purchases of diamonds, it has increased since that time, exporting over $200 million worth of diamonds in the 2010-11 economic year. As more people are employed in these industries, and the country gets a boost to its general finances, so it is likely that more and more people will find secure incomes in the country.