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TITLE:  LESOTHO HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                            
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

                        LESOTHO


Lesotho held democratic elections in March, marking the end of 
7 years of military rule and 23 years of unconstitutional 
rule.  The Basotholand Congress Party (BCP) won all 65 seats in 
the Assembly (lower house) and formed a Government under Prime 
Minister Dr. Ntsu Mokhehle.  The upper legislative house, the 
Senate, is comprised of the Kingdom's 22 principal chiefs and 
10 members nominated by the Council of State.  Given the 
absence in the Assembly of any opposition party 
representatives, the BCP offered to nominate 4 opposition party 
members among the 11 appointive Senate seats.  Only one clearly 
identified opposition politician accepted.  Several Cabinet 
members were also appointed from the ranks of the opposition.  
Coincident with the assumption of power by the BCP Government 
on April 2, Lesotho's new Constitution came into force.  After 
the election, controversy over who should rightfully occupy 
Lesotho's throne died down.  King Letsie III continued as 
monarch despite the presence of his father, ex-King Moshoeshoe 
II, who returned in 1992 from exile imposed by the military 
government in 1990.  The new Constitution clearly defines the 
king's role as ceremonial.

The Royal Lesotho Defense Force (RLDF) of about 2,500 troops is 
responsible for internal and border security.  The RLDF is 
assisted by the Royal Lesotho Mounted Police (RLMP) of about 
2,000 men and women.  The RLDF is responsible to the Minister 
of Defense (a portfolio held by the Prime Minister) while the 
RLMP answers to the Home Affairs Minister.  However, both 
services' actions and policies are under the ultimate control 
of the service chiefs through the Defense Commission, not under 
the control of Parliament.  Members of both forces occasionally 
beat or otherwise mistreat detainees.

A landlocked country surrounded by South Africa, Lesotho is 
almost entirely dependent on its sole neighbor for trade, 
finance, employment, and access to the outside world.  A large 
proportion of the adult male work force is employed in South 
African mines.  Miners' remittances play a substantial role in 
Lesotho's balance of payments, accounting for around 40 percent 
of gross national product in 1992.  State-owned organizations 
predominate in the agroindustrial and agribusiness sectors, but 
private sector activity dominates in manufacturing and 
construction.  Under Lesotho's traditional chieftainship 
structure, land is controlled by the chiefs and owned by the 
kingdom, precluding private ownership of property.


Human rights in 1993 were accorded increased attention by the 
civilian Government but serious abuses occurred.  The elections 
were peaceful, free, and fair, according to over 130 
international observers, and during the election process the 
freedoms of speech, press, and assembly expanded.  However, 
police brutality continued against detainees, criminal 
suspects, and trade unionists.  No government action to curb 
police brutality was taken.  The Government appeared to condone 
harsh police measures against legitimate trade union 
activities.  Women's rights continued to be severely 
restricted.  Parliament scaled back but did not completely 
remove restrictions on freedom of assembly.  The Internal 
Security Act of 1984 (ISA), as amended in 1986, with its 
draconian limitations on basic civil and political liberties, 
including provisions for lengthy detentions without trial, 
remained in force.  The Government acknowledged that a number 
of laws were inconsistent with human rights guarantees of the 
new Constitution but did not act to repeal them.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reported incidents of political killing in 1993, 
but local press and parliamentary inquiries identified at least 
two extrajudicial killings.  The Government announced its 
intention to charge two RLMP troopers with murder in one case. 
Excesses by law enforcement agencies continued, including fatal 
shootings of criminal suspects.  One person was killed by 
police during a labor dispute.  There were no investigations 
into any of the dozens of allegations of police brutality, 
including deaths in custody, suffered prior to 1993 by trade 
unionists and criminal suspects.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of politically related disappearances in 
1993.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

Credible reports of police brutality, including beatings of 
detainees, continued during 1993.  There were continued reports 
of random beatings of civilians by police and military 
personnel.  On July 2, police attacked and clubbed trade 
unionists marching peacefully to present a petition; several 
marchers were hospitalized.  There were several other incidents 
of police brutality against trade unionists, notably those 
involved in strikes against garment manufacturers.  No known 
investigations or other official measures were launched as a 
result of these practices.  Prison facilities are overcrowded 
and in need of repair.  There was no progress on an 
investigation into allegations that RLDF Captain Samuel Tumo 
was tortured during his incarceration on a charge of murder in 
1990.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

About a dozen cases of arbitrary arrest of trade unionists for 
violation of provisions of the ISA came to light in 1993.  The 
General Secretary of the Construction and Allied Workers Union 
of Lesotho was arrested while leading a peaceful march July 2 
for having failed to obtain prior police permission as then 
required under the ISA.  Other arbitrary arrests occurred in 
the course of demonstrations against various factories by 
striking garment industry workers.  In general, pretrial 
detainees constitute a significant portion of total prison 
population; up to one-half, in some locations.  Pretrial remand 
can last several years.

In civil and criminal cases, persons arrested or detained have 
the right to immediate consideration of habeas corpus appeals 
as well as the right to legal counsel.  The 1981 Criminal 
Procedures and Evidence Act, as amended in 1984, provides for 
the granting of bail.  Under the Act, the High Court is the 
only judicial body empowered to grant bail in cases of armed 
robbery or homicide.

Although it was acknowledged by the Government to be partly 
inconsistent with human rights guarantees in the new 
Constitution, the Internal Security (General) Act (ISA) of 1984 
remained in force.  The ISA provides for so-called 
investigative detention without charge or trial in political 
cases for up to 42 days (the first 14 days on order of the 
police; the second 14 days on order of the Police Commissioner; 
and the final 14 days on order of the Minister of Defense -- a 
portfolio now held by the Prime Minister).  A political case is 
defined as involving "subversion," defined in the ISA to 
include "supporting, propagating, or advocating any act or 
thing prejudicial to public order, the security of Lesotho, or 
the administration of justice; connection, association, or 
affiliation with or support for an unlawful organization;" and 
other similarly loosely defined transgressions, most within the 
judgment of a police officer.  During the second stage of the 
detention, ministerially appointed "advisers" (all of whom have 
to date been government employees) are available to report on 
the health of the detainee, investigate whether the detainee 
has been involved in subversive activities, and advise the 
Minister of Defense whether continued detention is needed.  
Detainees under the ISA may make representation about their own 
treatment only through the adviser.  The ISA also allows for 
detention of witnesses in security cases.  There were no known 
detentions under the ISA in 1993; legal professionals held that 
any such attempt to detain persons would promptly be declared 
unconstitutional by the High Court.  The ISA also allows the 
Minister of Defense to "restrict" a person who, in the opinion 
of the Police Commissioner, is conducting himself in a manner 
prejudicial to public order, security, administration of 
justice, or obedience to the law or lawful authority; there 
were no known "restrictions" in 1993.

The ISA was used in 1993 to charge trade unionists with illegal 
assembly, although no unionist was ever brought to trial.  
Pressure from Parliament and the Lesotho Human Rights Alert 
Group grew throughout 1993 to scrap the ISA in order to bring 
Lesotho's Legal Code into compliance with the Constitution.  At 
year's end, Parliament was debating establishment of a law 
reform commission which would review all laws for consistency 
with the Constitution and each other.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judiciary consists of the Court of Appeal (which meets 
semiannually), the High Court, magistrate's courts, and 
customary or traditional courts, which exist largely in rural 
areas to administer customary law.  Judges on the High Court 
are relatively independent; magistrates appear more susceptible 
to governmental or chieftainship influence.  The Court of 
Appeal's early 1993 release on bail of a royalist army officer 
convicted of conspiracy to murder, a person greatly feared by 
the then ruling military council, demonstrated its 
independence.  Court decisions and rulings are respected by the 
authorities and are generally free of interference by the 
executive.  Accused persons have and use the right to counsel 
and public trials.  The courts have acted to limit 
infringements of law on numerous occasions in past years, e.g., 
the April 1988 annulment on procedural grounds of the state of 
emergency, which, however, the military government then in 
power quickly reinstituted.

Under the system of Roman-Dutch law applied in Lesotho, there 
is no trial by jury.  Criminal trials are normally adjudicated 
by a single High Court judge who presides, with two assessors 
serving in an advisory capacity.  In civil cases, judges 
normally hear cases alone.  The High Court also provides 
procedural and substantive advice and guidance on matters of 
legal procedure to military tribunals; however, it does not 
participate in arriving at judgments.  Military tribunals have 
jurisdiction only over military cases.

An inquiry into the 1986 slayings of two former Cabinet 
ministers and their wives, initiated by the Attorney General in 
November 1989, resulted in the arrest, trial, and conviction of 
two military personnel; those convictions were upheld by the 
Court of Appeal in 1993.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

Although search warrants are usually required, the ISA provides 
police with sweeping powers to enter and search homes and cars 
without a warrant when the presence of explosives or the 
"unlawful use of radio transmitters" is suspected.  Such 
searches occurred generally in the context of police operations 
against criminal activity, primarily theft.  The Government is 
believed routinely to monitor telephone conversations of senior 
officials and some foreigners on national security grounds.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

Prior to March 1993 elections, the government-controlled press 
continued editorial warnings to royalists and partisans of 
ex-King Moshoeshoe II against interference in the elections 
during the weeks leading up to the vote.  Political meetings 
were covered impartially, and all political parties were 
allotted time by government-controlled media.  Following the 
election, the new Minister of Information and Broadcasting 
encouraged the independent and government-owned media to report 
impartially on newsworthy events.  Opposition viewpoints were 
routinely expressed in the independent press, which consisted 
of Sesotho-language weekly newspapers published by the Roman 

Catholic Church and the Lesotho Evangelical Church, and two 
independent English-language weeklies.

The Government controls the official media (one radio station, 
a 1-hour daily newscast on a local television channel, and two 
weekly newspapers) and ensures that they faithfully reflect 
official views.  Prior to the elections, however, the 
Government made available free time on television and radio to 
each of the 16 contesting political parties.  There were 
charges that government media gave favorable preelectoral 
coverage to the political activities of the Basotho National 
Party (BNP).

Academic freedom was generally respected.  Political meetings 
were held on the National University campus during the election 
campaign.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The police prevented several peaceful assemblies of union 
members in 1993.  Prior to the elections, the Government 
prevented several planned public meetings of supporters of 
ex-King Moshoeshoe II.  However, political party meetings and 
rallies, particularly those held by the two main parties, the 
BCP and BNP, occurred regularly throughout the country in 
preparation for the vote.  Nonpolitical organizations and 
professional groups were freely formed and allowed to hold 
public and regular meetings.

Under a mid-1993 revision of the ISA, a public meeting, rally, 
or march no longer requires prior police permission, only 
advance notification.  Police or local authorities may still 
restrict or prohibit such gatherings on loosely defined "public 
order" grounds.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

There is no state religion.  Free and open religious practice 
is permitted and encouraged.  Christianity is nominally the 
dominant faith of the majority of Basotho, and Roman 
Catholicism has the most adherents, although less than half of 
the population.  A significant Protestant minority is composed 
of the Lesotho Evangelical Church, the Anglican Church, and a 
number of smaller denominations.  Conversion is permitted.  No 
apparent social or political benefit or stigma is attached to 
belonging to any particular church.  There are no barriers to 
missionary activity or work by foreign clergy.


     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Citizens generally are allowed to move freely within the 
country and across national boundaries.  The Government 
distinguishes between "international" passports and "local" 
passports.  The latter, which are the more readily available, 
are for use only in travelling to South Africa, as many Basotho 
do on a regular basis for work or shopping.  A refundable 
deposit of up to $730 (2,500 maluti), depending on the 
destination, is required to obtain an international passport, 
in theory to cover the cost of eventual repatriation if 
necessary.  The Government places no obstacles in the way of 
its own citizens who wish to emigrate.  As of late 1993, fewer 
than 100 refugees, the majority of them South Africans, who 
were registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for 
Refugees (UNHCR) had been granted asylum in Lesotho.  The local 
office of the UNHCR also reported over 4,000 South Africans in 
"refugee-like status;" most have lived in Lesotho for many 
years.  There is no forced resettlement of refugees.  The UNHCR 
closed its Lesotho office in mid-1993, owing to the lack of new 
refugee cases.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Citizens exercised their right to choose their own government 
in 1993 for the first time in over 20 years.  The March 27 
multiparty elections were judged free and fair by over 130 
international observers.  Under its new Constitution, Lesotho 
has a democratically elected Parliament with universal suffrage 
for those over 21, an independent judiciary, and a 
constitutional monarch.  National elections are to be held 
again no later than 1998.  The Constitution is based largely on 
the independence Constitution of 1966, modified by the National 
Constituent Assembly which met intermittently from 1990 to 1992.

The new civilian Cabinet includes Lesotho's first female 
cabinet minister.  While there are no legal impediments to 
women's participation in government or politics, many practical 
impediments exist.  As noted in Section 5, married women are 
considered minors under law, requiring permission from their 
husbands for basic business activities (e.g., opening a bank 
account).  Single women face a social stigma that mitigates 
against their achieving senior positions in the private or 
public sector (although there are prominent exceptions, 
including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs chief civil servant.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

The Government did not hinder the activities of the Lesotho 
Human Rights Alert Group, the umbrella nongovernmental 
organization (NGO) formed in 1992, which aimed to bring under 
its leadership all other NGO's active in human rights issues.  
Union allegations of worker rights' violations and official 
anti-unionism were aired by the media, including 
government-controlled media.

The Government worked closely with the International Labor 
Organization (ILO) in preparing and implementing a new labor 
code.

Section 5  Discrimination based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

     Women

The rights of women are severely limited by both law and custom 
in such areas as property, inheritance, and contracts.  Women 
have the legal and customary right to make a will and sue for 
divorce.  However, under Lesotho's customary law, a married 
woman is considered a minor during the lifetime of her husband; 
she cannot enter into any legally binding contract, whether for 
employment, commerce, or education, without her husband's 
consent.  A woman married under customary law has no standing 
in court and may not sue or be sued without her husband's 
permission.  Women traditionally have been the stabilizing 
force in the home and in the agricultural sector, given the 
absence of tens of thousands of Basotho men who work in South 
Africa.  More female than male children complete primary and 
secondary schools, and literacy rates are estimated to be 
higher among women than among men.  No government has seriously 
addressed the issue of women's rights.

Domestic violence, including wife beating, occurs frequently.  
Statistics are not available, but the extent of the problem is 
thought to be great.  In Basotho tradition, a wife may return 
to her "maiden home" if physically abused by her husband; in 
the common law, wife beating is a criminal offense and defined 
as assault.  A 1976 High Court case reversed a Roman-Dutch 
legal tradition which recognized a husband's right to chastise 
his wife at will.  Women's rights organizations have formed.  
The local chapter of the International Federation of Woman 
Lawyers has taken a leading role in educating Basotho women 
about their rights under customary and common law and 
highlighted the importance of women's full participation in the 
democratization process.  Women in Business is an advocacy 
group that seeks to promote the empowerment of independent 
businesswomen.

     Children

The Government devotes substantial resources to primary and 
secondary education, and enrollment rates are relatively high.  
There is no pattern of societal abuse against children.  Young 
"herdboys" live a rigorous and harsh existence tending their 
parents' cattle, sheep, or goat herds and often miss formal 
schooling as a result.  This practice constitutes a socially 
entrenched rite of passage.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Most citizens speak a common language and share common 
historical and cultural traditions.  Small numbers of Asians 
(primarily ethnic Chinese and Indians) and South African whites 
are active in the country's commercial life.  Economic and 
racial tension between the Chinese business community, 
specifically textile industry employers, and the Basotho 
remained an issue in 1993.  There was no generalized, 
ethnically based violence as occurred in 1991, but foreign shop 
owners remained subject to the 1987 Trading Enterprise Order, 
which calls on foreign owners to enter into joint ventures with 
Basotho nationals.  Although equity transfers would entail 
compensation and the program has not been strongly enforced, it 
remains a concern to non-Basotho businesspeople.

     People with Disabilities

The Government has not legislated or mandated physical 
accessibility to public buildings for the handicapped.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Workers have the legal right to join or form unions without 
prior government authorization.  A large portion of the active 
male labor force between the ages of 20 and 44 seeks work in 
the Republic of South Africa, mainly in gold and coal mines.  
Most of the remainder are engaged in traditional agriculture.  
The rest are employed mainly by the Government and in small 
industries and enterprises in Lesotho.  A majority of Basotho 
mineworkers are members of the South African National Union of 
Mineworkers (NUM).  Because the NUM is a foreign organization, 
it is not permitted to engage in union activities in Lesotho.

Under a new Labor Code, prepared with the assistance of the ILO 
and effective in April, all trade union federations were 
required to seek government registration.  The Government has 
withheld registration from the Congress of Democratic Unions 
(CDU) since its formation by four recognized independent unions 
in 1991.  The Labor Commissioner maintained in 1993 that the 
CDU still did not meet registration requirements under the new 
code, but the authorities took no action to inhibit CDU 
activities.  The Government's refusal to register the CDU was 
in part an effort to require it to join a rival federation, the 
officially recognized Lesotho Labor Congress (LLC), composed of 
24 affiliated trade unions.

Overall, unionized workers represent only about 10 percent of 
the total work force.  The Lesotho Allied Clothing and Textile 
Workers Union is the only major industrial union within the 
LLC.  All major unions professed political neutrality in the 
elections.  After the elections, tension increased dramatically 
between labor and employers, with particularly frequent and 
violent confrontations occurring in the textile and garment 
industries.  Although the newly elected Government voiced no 
hostility toward unions, it appeared to condone harsh police 
measures against wildcat strikers, including teargassing, 
beatings, and detentions or arrest.

Settlement procedures are so lengthy and cumbersome that no 
legally sanctioned strike has occurred in Lesotho since 
independence in 1966.  Dozens of strikes occurred in 1993, 
particularly amid heightened expectations among workers after 
the March elections, but none was recognized as "legal" by the 
Government.  Legal protection for strikers against retribution 
has not been enforced in cases of illegal strikes; several 
hundred workers in the textile industry were dismissed in 1993 
following wildcat strikes, and the Government maintained it 
could not oblige their employers to reinstate them.

Workers engaged in peaceful assembly were in 1993 harassed by 
police.  In one case, members of the Construction and Allied 
Workers Union of Lesotho (CAWULE) were in early July 
teargassed, assaulted, and arrested when attempting to march 
peacefully to deliver a petition to the Minister of Labor.  
CAWULE members were charged with violating the Internal 
Security Act of 1984 by failing to obtain permission to march; 
CAWULE claimed that it had requested such permission but the 
police never responded.

The ILO's Committee on Freedom of Association noted the 
Government's 1993 response to a complaint lodged in 1992 
concerning intimidation of CAWULE activities at the Lesotho 
Highlands Water Project construction site.  The Committee, 
however, asked to be kept informed of developments in this 
case, reflecting an incomplete governmental response to charges 
made.

There were no instances in 1993 of governmental restrictions on 
international affiliations or contacts by unions or their 
members.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

All legally recognized trade unions in Lesotho in principle 
have the right in law to organize and bargain collectively, but 
exercise of these rights is often thwarted.  There was some 
minor bargaining between unions and employers to set wage and 
benefit rates in 1993, although wage rates continued to be set 
primarily through unilateral action by employers.

Credible reports of government acquiescence to private 
employers' intimidation of union officials continued.  In one 
case, members of a local executive committee of the Lesotho 
Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (LACTWU) were 
prevented by police from meeting.  An Unfair Labor Practices 
Tribunal investigates unfair labor practices and charges of 
antiunion discrimination.  Both the LLC- and CDU-affiliated 
unions charge the Government with maintaining an antiunion bias.

Lesotho has several industrial estates grouping together 
companies, mostly textile and apparel firms, engaged in 
manufacturing for export.  All national labor laws apply in 
these industrial zones, but LACTWU officials charge that the 
Government colludes with industry employers to inhibit union 
organizational activities in the workplace.


     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited by the 1987 Employment 
Act, and there is no indication of its practice.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The legal minimum age for employment in commercial or 
industrial enterprises is 15.  Persons under age 16 may not 
work more than 4 consecutive hours without a 1-hour break, nor 
may they work more than 8 hours per day.  In practice, however, 
children under 14 are employed in family-owned businesses.  The 
employment of minors in commercial, industrial, or nonfamily 
enterprises involving hazardous or dangerous working conditions 
is prohibited.  Basotho under 18 years of age may not be 
recruited for employment outside the country.  Enforcement of 
these laws by inspectors of the Ministry of Labor and 
Employment is lax.  In Lesotho's traditional society, rigorous 
working conditions for the country's young "herdboys" are 
considered a prerequisite to manhood and a fundamental feature 
of Basotho culture beyond the reach of labor laws.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wages are extremely low.  The Government, following the 
recommendation of a tripartite wages advisory board, last 
raised the statutory minimum wage rates for various types of 
work in 1992.  Monthly minimum wage rates in the established 
categories range from the equivalent of $75 for a messenger to 
$144 for a heavy-vehicle driver.  At the low end, wages at 
these rates are insufficient for a minimum decent standard of 
living for a worker and family.  Most wage earners supplement 
their monthly income through subsistence agriculture or 
remittances from relatives employed in South Africa.  Many 
employers in Lesotho now pay more than minimum wages in an 
effort to attract and retain motivated employees.

The 1993 Labor Code spells out basic worker rights, including a 
45-hour workweek, a weekly rest period of at least 24 hours, 12 
days' paid leave per year, and paid public holidays.  Employers 
are required to provide adequate light, ventilation, and 
sanitary facilities for employees, and to install and maintain 
machinery in ways which minimize the risk of injury.  In 
practice, these regulations are generally followed only within 
the wage economy and are enforced haphazardly by inspectors 
from the Department of Labor of the Ministry of Labor and 
Employment.  Staff shortages in the Ministry limit effective 
enforcement to the major urban areas.


[end of document]

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