Lesotho has a population density of 69 residents per km
2, but the distribution is uneven. The
mountainous eastern parts are sparsely populated; About 70
percent of the residents live in the limited fertile lowland
areas in the west. Locally, the population density in
western Lesotho can amount to more than 200 residents per km
2. In 2019, 28 percent of the population lived in
cities. The capital Maseru (330,800 residents, 2016) is the
country's largest city.
Countryaah, Lesotho's population is homogeneous. Almost all
Lesothians are Southern Sotho (98 percent), a subgroup of
Sotho, and call themselves Basotho. The rest consists of
Zulu, Xhosa and whites of South African descent. There are
also some minor minorities of nguni origin, integrated with
basotho. Basotho is also found in the Free State Province of
South Africa, where their numbers are significantly greater
than in Lesotho.
In the past, patrilinear and patrilocal large families
with large herds of livestock and common agriculture formed
the community base in Lesotho. Migrant work in South Africa
and monetary economics has meant that the individual
household has now become the basic social and economic unit,
although the extended family still has economic, social and
ritual significance. Similarly, livestock is still important
even in other contexts than economic ones.
A large part of Lesotho's men of productive age are
migrant workers in South African mines. Home and agriculture
are mainly run by women. The dependence on the miners' wages
is so great that one can regard Lesotho as a mining
industrial country without its own mines and the majority of
its population as a rural proletariat. All land in Lesotho
belongs to the nation and cannot be owned privately. The
traditional chief hierarchy, in whose top the king is found,
still has administrative and judicial functions. Each
village has a chieftain whose task is to allocate farming
rights to the village's agricultural land.
The Bantu language Sotho (Sesotho, Southern Sotho) is
spoken by about 85% of the population; about 15% speak Zulu
(also a bantu language). Sotho is the official language
along with English. Compare Population above.
At the turn of the 1900, the proportion of Christians in
Lesotho was about one tenth of the population. Today, over
90% of Lesothians are Christians. The Catholic Church,
established in the country in 1862, is the largest Christian
community with nearly half the population as members. The
first Christian community in Lesotho is Lesotho Evangelical
Church, which began operating in the country in 1833, and
today has just over 10% of the population as members.
Between 1868 and 1966, the country was a British
protectorate, which may be one reason why the Anglican
Church entered the country in 1875 and today about 5% of
Lesothians are members of this community. Other Christian
communities are comprised of 25% of the population. It is
estimated that just over 5% practice indigenous traditional
African religion. The country also has small groups of
Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Baha'is. The Christians are
found throughout the country, while the Muslims mainly live
in the Butha-Butte district in the north of the country.
Many of the Christians combine Christianity with traditional
The Constitution and other laws guarantee freedom of
religion. New religious minority groups are easily
integrated into society, as the country's constitution is
secular, something that the government is guarding. The
Christian churches have a great responsibility for school
education. The Catholic Church operates an estimated 40% of
all the country's primary schools. Other communities that
have schools are the Evangelical Church, the Anglican Church
and the Methodist Church. Lesotho's Christian Council played
an important role as mediator between various political
parties in conflicts over the distribution of seats in the
National Assembly after the 2007 elections.
The following days are national holidays: Good Friday,
Easter Sunday, Ascension Day and Christmas Day.