Lesotho coup

Apparently there was a military coup in Lesotho over the weekend.

Previously, Lesotho has appeared on the pages of this blog only when it has had complications with its mixed-member proportional (MMP) system.

12 thoughts on “Lesotho coup

  1. Lesotho was created by the British to deny the Afrikaners in the Transvaal access to the sea. After the introduction of apartheid the country functioned only as a labor reserve for South Africa. Approximately twice as many Sesotho-speakers live in South Africa as in Lesotho where it is the national language. Lesotho is entirely surrounded by South Africa, shares close economic, ethnic, cultural and linguistic links with that country and its best future probably lies in becoming a tenth province of South Africa.

    The existing province of KwaZulu-Natal has the Zulu king as traditional monarch so there would be no need to abolish the Basotho monarchy.

  2. Thie history of South Africa is fascinating, and one aspect is how three of the bantustans the Apartheid era South African government tried to create had a counterpart, a small country just across the border with the same ethnic group, but was internationally recognized:

    1. Sothos: Lesotho (internationally recognized) plus QwaQwa and Lebowa (bantustans)

    2. Swazi: Swaziland (internationally regonized) plus KwaNgame (bantustan)

    3. Tswana: Botstwana (internationally recognized) plus Bophutswana (bantustan)

    Given the degree to which Lesotho, Swaziland, and Botswana were under South African control, the South African government might have well just adjusted the border.

    I can’t help thinking the South African govenment could have made the strategy work if they had been willing to give up half the country, and give full citizenship to the Coloreds (and Indians, if they decided to keep an enclave around Durban). The White population would have still controlled a disproportionate area and resources, surrounded half a dozen weaker and fairly friendly African nations.

  3. The larger empire of the British consciously created the two enclaves to diminish and control the smaller empire of the Afrikaners.

    Botswana, by contrast was always a separate colony although the official borders obviously do not correspond to the real borders. Swaziland has an external border although the transport linkages all run into South Africa.

    The other strangeness was the Central African Federation, an attempt to unify what is now Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi, into a second minority regime in southern Africa. The franchise was restricted although a small number of Africans could vote. The federation had its own parliament, and separate legislatures for the three territories, but there was an extensive list of reserved subjects under the direct control of the governor-general rather than the parliament. Successive British governments hoped to change the demographics of the federation by encouraging white immigration from the UK and South Africa. The effort was abandoned in 1963, an event that led directly to the white minority’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence in what as then called Southern Rhodesia and is now Zimbabwe.

    The whole area encompassing South Africa, the two enclaves, the former federation, Botswana and Namibia uses a strange blend of Roman and common law known as Roman-Dutch law.

    • I have (or at least can recall having) a National Geographic map that shows a “Federation of Rhodesia and Nyassaland”. I had not ever seen this alternatively called the “Central African Federation”.

      I also have (or did) a Nat Geo map that shows independent countries called Union of Central African Republics (today’s Congo-Brazzaville, Chad, and CAR) and the Mali Federation (Soudan, now Mali, plus Senegal).

      Yes, I love maps from that (or any) period.

      • The UK National Archives tell us:

        Central African Federation

        A semi-independent state in southern Africa that existed from 1953-1963, comprising Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia, and Nyasaland

    • As MSS commented, you probably mean the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.
      The legal system used in that part of Southern Africa may or may not be a blend of Roman and common law, but “Roman-Dutch law”, at least in my mind, simply means the Roman or civil law as used in the Low Countries (and associated lands), which I don’t believe to be much different to its use elsewhere on the continent.

      • By the time the Netherlands adopted the Code Napoléon, the Cape Colony was part of the British empire. Southern Africa therefore developed Romeins-Hollandse reg independently of legal developments in the civl law countries of Europe. Equally the elements of the common law and the Scots law systems that influenced the law in southern Africa obviously did not apply in civil law Europe. In particular, the idea of judge-made law is foreign to the other Roman law systems. The Supreme Court of Appeal notes:

        When, at the end of the 18th century, the Cape was occupied by the British, Roman-Dutch law was retained and confirmed as the common law of the country. English, however, became the language of the courts and English legal procedures and the English law of evidence in both criminal and civil matters were introduced. The influence of English private and public law soon became apparent, more particularly because its sources were more readily available to practitioners than the Latin and High Dutch of the Roman-Dutch old authorities. Occasionally it is still necessary for a modern judge to delve into these old authorities to search for the origin and scope of an otherwise obscure legal rule or doctrine.

        A friend of mine who is a Dutch lawyer was a little startled by a system of law named after his country that he knew nothing about.

      • Very interesting indeed. Differences between legal systems (and their significance) are a thing I often wonder about and have yet to find a good source to summarise such things satisfactorily in layman’s terms… anything you could recommend, Alan?

  4. I think I’d start with The Cambridge Companion to Comparative Law. it’s a biggish book, bout you are not going to find any useful short books.

    The two giants are of course civil law and common law, but there are others out there like Islamic law and Scots law. The common law is also splintering at a rapid rate with the top courts in the US under political pressure to stop treating the decisions of other top courts as persuasive but not binding authority. That has direct institutional consequences.

    If you ask the supreme court of Canada a question about elections or courts or parliaments they will start to think about how a representative democracy should work. If you ask the supreme court of the United States they will take a much, much more formalistic ‘black letter’ approach.

  5. Pingback: Lesotho election, 2015 | Fruits and Votes

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