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Maseru from Parliament Hill.jpg
Maseru as seen from Parliament Hill
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Coordinates: 29°19′S27°29′E / 29.31°S 27.48°E / -29.31; 27.48
Country Lesotho
District Maseru
  Total138 km2 (53 sq mi)
1,600 m (5,200 ft)
 (2016 census)
  Density2,397/km2 (6,210/sq mi)
Time zone UTC+2 (SAST)
Climate Cwb

Maseru is the capital and largest city of Lesotho. It is also the capital of the Maseru District. Located on the Caledon River, Maseru lies directly on the Lesotho–South Africa border. Maseru had a population of 330,760 in the 2016 census. The city was established as a police camp and assigned as the capital after the country became a British protectorate in 1869. When the country achieved independence in 1966, Maseru retained its status as capital. The name of the city is a Sesotho word meaning "red sandstones". [1] [2]



Maseru was founded by the British as a small police camp in 1869, following the conclusion of the Free State–Basotho Wars when Basutoland became a British protectorate. [3] [4] [5] Maseru is located at the edge of the "conquered territories" relinquished to the Orange Free State (now the Free State province of South Africa) as part of the peace terms. It was located 24 kilometres (15 mi) west of Basotho King Moshoeshoe I's stronghold of Thaba Bosiu, the previous de facto capital. A bustling market town soon grew around the area. [6]

Maseru initially functioned as the state's administrative capital between 1869 and 1871, before administration of Basutoland was transferred to the Cape Colony. During their rule between 1871 and 1884, Basutoland was treated similarly to territories that had been forcefully annexed, much to the chagrin of the Basotho. [7] This led to the Gun War in 1881 and the burning of many buildings in Maseru. [1] In 1884, Basutoland was restored to its status as a Crown colony, and Maseru was again made capital. When Basutoland gained its independence and became the Kingdom of Lesotho in 1966, Maseru remained the country's capital. [5]

Prior to Lesotho's independence, Maseru had remained relatively small; it was contained within well-defined colonial boundaries and had little room for growth, while the British had little interest in developing the city. After 1966 Maseru experienced rapid expansion: its area increased around sevenfold, from around 20 square kilometres (7.7 sq mi) to the current area of 138 square kilometres (53 sq mi), due to incorporation of nearby peri-urban villages to the city proper. [1] [5] The annual population growth rates remained around 7% for several decades, before tapering off to around 3.5% between 1986 and 1996. [5]

After the 1998 parliamentary elections in Lesotho led to suspicions of vote fraud and a military intervention by South Africa, much of the city was damaged by riots and pillaging. [8] The cost of repairing the damage done to the city was estimated at around two billion rand (US$350 million), [9] and until almost 2008, the effects of the riots could still be seen within the city. [10]


Panoramic view of Maseru in 2007 Maseru Panorama 1-2007.jpg
Panoramic view of Maseru in 2007

Maseru is located in northwest Lesotho by the South African border, denoted by the Mohokare River. Mohokare River is also known as Caledon River. The two countries are connected by a border post at the Maseru Bridge, which crosses the river. On the South African side, Ladybrand is the town closest to Maseru. The city lies in a shallow valley at the foot of the Hlabeng-Sa-Likhama, foothills of the Maloti Mountains. [1] The elevation of the city is listed as 1,600 metres (5,200 ft) above sea level. [11] The city has an area of around 138 square kilometres (53 sq mi). [5]


Maseru has a typical subtropical highland climate (Köppen climate classification: Cfb/Cwb), bordering on a dry-winter subtropical highland, with the city being categorised by warm, rainy summers and cool to chilly, dry winters. The average mean daily temperature during summer — from December to March in the Southern Hemisphere — is 22 °C (72 °F). During winter, between June and September, the average temperature is 9 °C (48 °F). The hottest month is January, with temperatures between 15 and 33 °C (59 and 91 °F). [12] During the coldest month, July, the temperatures range from −3 to 17 °C (27 to 63 °F). [12] The average rainfall ranges from 3 mm in July to 111 mm (4.4 inches) in January. [12]

Climate data for Maseru (1931–1960)
Average high °C (°F)28
Average low °C (°F)14
Average precipitation mm (inches)114
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.1 mm)1310118633338101088
Average relative humidity (%)37424342383532272430343535
Mean monthly sunshine hours 2872632592412472322542792782762793073,202
Source: Danish Meteorological Institute [13]


The latest (2016) census lists the city's population at 330,760, or around a tenth of the entire population of the country, and half of the total urban population. The population of the city was at 98,017 by the 1986 census, and 137,837 by the 1996 census, demonstrating the early rapid expansion of the city after independence. [1]

Kingsway traffic 362 Kingsway.jpg
Kingsway traffic


View from the main road south in Maseru Maseru Leotho main south.jpg
View from the main road south in Maseru

A railway line, built in 1905, bridges the Mohokare River to connect Maseru with Marseilles on South Africa's Bloemfontein Bethlehem main line.

Kingsway, the road joining the former Leabua Jonathan Airport, now Mejametalana Airport and the Royal Palace in Maseru, was the first paved road in Lesotho. Having previously been just a dirt path, it was renovated in 1947 for the visit of members of the British Royal Family. [14] It remained the only paved road in the country until Lesotho's independence in 1966. [1] Two main roads lead outside of Maseru, Main North 1 to the northeast and Main South 1 to the southeast toward Mazenod and Roma. The South African N8 road leads from the Maseru Bridge border post west towards Ladybrand and Bloemfontein.

An international airport called the Moshoeshoe I International Airport is nearby, at Thoteng-ea-Moli, Mazenod. The National University of Lesotho is located in Roma, 32 kilometres (20 mi) from Maseru.


View from Main North 1, uptown Maseru at dusk Uptown Maseru.jpg
View from Main North 1, uptown Maseru at dusk

The commerce in the city is centered on two neighboring central business districts, which have developed around Kingsway and serve as major employment centres. The western business district holds larger office buildings, department stores and several banks. The eastern business district hosts mainly smaller businesses, markets and street vendors. [1] The central business districts are the largest employment centers within the city. [1]

Maseru's economy is one that is growing at a very rapid speed, which is notable particularly in terms of foreign investment and tourism since independence from Britain, and economic ruin when political violence broke out in 1998. Since the riots, the city has worked hard to undo the damage caused.

Maseru's industry is split into two main areas. The one to the north of the central business districts along Moshoeshoe Road holds flour mills and other major companies. The other industrial sector lies to the south of the central business districts, at the Thetsane district, and houses mainly textile and footwear companies. [1]

Up until 2004 Maseru had a growing textile industry supported by and invested in by Chinese manufacturing concerns. Since the expiration of the Multi Fibre Arrangement the textile industry in Lesotho has diminished. [15] The city's products once included candles, carpets and mohair products but these have been overshadowed by South African industries.

Places of worship

Among the places of worship, they are predominantly Christian churches and temples: Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa, Zion Christian Church, Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Maseru, Our Lady of Victories Cathedra. [16] There are also Muslim mosques.


Maseru at night--view to the south. The city center is to the right Maseru night.jpg
Maseru at night—view to the south. The city center is to the right
Basotho Hat Shop BasothoHatShop.jpg
Basotho Hat Shop

Most of the traditional thatched-roof mud-brick houses, called rondavels, have been replaced with modern housing and office blocks which have a tint of traditional architecture. There have recently been some new buildings in the center of the city, particularly the building across LNDC center which now houses Good times cafe, a Vodacom shop, offices and the new building of the Ministry of Health which was completed in late 2007.

Buildings destroyed in the 1998 political uprising have been rebuilt and have shops like Fruits and Veg City, Woolworths and Mr Price to name a few. The New Lehakoe National sports center, which is in between the central Bank of Lesotho and the colonial parliament building is equipped with tennis courts, swimming pools, conference centers, bars and gymnasiums. In November 2009 Pioneer Mall opened, providing Maseru with a South African style shopping mall, with many stores, a four-screen cinema and restaurants. Further such malls are under construction in Maseru.

There are some colonial era buildings around the center of the city, most notably the Cathedral of Our Lady of Victories of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Maseru, and the Anglican St. John's Church. [1] Other sights include the Royal Palace, the Parliament building and the State House. [17]


Lesotho's national stadium, the multi-purpose Setsoto Stadium, is located in Maseru. It has a capacity of between 20,000 and 25,000 people. The stadium is mostly used for football matches and houses the Lesotho national football team, but also holds events in athletics. [18]

12 out of 16 of the teams playing in the Lesotho Premier League reside in Maseru. [19] As of 2020, 36 out of the 51 championships contested in the league have gone to Maseru-based teams. Most successful of these have been Matlama FC with ten championship wins and the football team of the Royal Lesotho Defense Force, with eight championships wins.

Twin towns – sister cities

List of sister cities of Maseru, designated by Sister Cities International.

Related Research Articles

Lesotho Country within the border of South Africa

Lesotho, officially the Kingdom of Lesotho, is an enclaved country surrounded by South Africa. It is a mountainous country situated in the Maloti Mountains, and contains the highest mountains in Southern Africa. Lesotho has an area of just over 30,000 km2 (11,600 sq mi) and has a population of about 2 million. Its capital and largest city is Maseru. The official languages are Sesotho and English.

History of Lesotho Historical development of Lesotho

The history of people living in the area now known as Lesotho goes back as many as 400 years. The present Lesotho emerged as a single polity under King Moshoeshoe I in 1822. Under Moshoeshoe I, Basotho joined other clans in their struggle against the Lifaqane associated with famine and the reign of Shaka Zulu from 1818 to 1828.

This article concerns systems of transport in Lesotho. As a landlocked country, Lesotho has no seaports or harbours, but does have road, air transport, and limited rail infrastructure.

Basutoland British colony from 1884 to 1966

Basutoland was a British Crown colony that existed from 1884 to 1966 in present-day Lesotho. Though the Basotho and their territory had been under British control starting in 1868, the Cape Colony was unpopular and unable to control the territory. As a result, Basutoland was brought under direct authority of Queen Victoria, via the High Commissioner, and run by an Executive Council presided over by a series of British Resident Commissioners.

Letsie III King of Lesotho since 1996

Letsie III is King of Lesotho. He succeeded his father, Moshoeshoe II, when the latter was forced into exile in 1990. His father was briefly restored in 1995 but died in a car crash in early 1996, and Letsie became king again. As a constitutional monarch, most of King Letsie's duties as monarch of Lesotho are ceremonial. In 2000, he declared HIV/AIDS in Lesotho to be a natural disaster, prompting immediate national and international response to the epidemic.

Sotho people Bantu ethnic group of Southern Africa

The Sotho people, also known as the Basuto or Basotho, are a Bantu nation native to southern Africa. They split into different ethnic groups over time, due to regional conflicts and colonialism, which resulted in the modern Basotho, who have inhabited the region of Lesotho, South Africa since around the fifth century CE.

Moshoeshoe I King of Lesotho

Moshoeshoe was born at Menkhoaneng in the northern part of present-day Lesotho. He was the first son of Mokhachane, a minor chief of the Bamokoteli lineage- a branch of the Koena (crocodile) clan. In his youth, he helped his father gain power over some other smaller clans. At the age of 34 Moshoeshoe formed his own clan and became a chief. He and his followers settled at the Butha-Buthe Mountain. He subsequently became the first King of Lesotho from 1822 to 1870.

Leabua Jonathan

Joseph Leabua Jonathan was the second prime minister of Lesotho. He succeeded Chief Sekhonyana Nehemia Maseribane following a by-election and held that post from 1965 to 1986.

Ladybrand is a small agricultural town in the Free State province of South Africa, situated 18 km from Maseru, the capital of Lesotho. Ladybrand is one of five towns that forms the Mantsopa Local Municipality. Founded in 1867 following the Basotho Wars, it was named after Lady (Catharina) Brand, the wife of the president of the Orange Free State, Johannes Brand.

Smithfield, Free State Place in Free State, South Africa

Smithfield is a small town in the Free State province of South Africa. Founded in 1848 in the Orange River Sovereignty, the town is situated in a rural farming district and is the third oldest town in present-day Free State, after Philippolis and Winburg.

Caledon River

The Caledon River is a major river located in central South Africa. Its total length is 642 km (399 mi), rising in the Drakensberg Mountains on the Lesotho border, flowing southwestward and then westward before joining the Orange River near Bethulie in the southern Free State.

Free State–Basotho Wars 1858–1868 series of Boer Wars in Southern Africa

The Free State–Basotho Wars refers to a series of wars fought between King Moshoeshoe I, the ruler of the Basotho kingdom, and the white settlers, in what is now known as the Free State. These can be divided into the Senekal's War of 1858, the Seqiti War in 1865−1866 and the Third Basotho War in 1867−68.

Teyateyaneng Town in Lesotho

Teyateyaneng is a town located in the district of Berea in Lesotho. Usually abbreviated to T.Y., Teyateyaneng takes its name from the two twin rivers which run on the north and the South. Both rivers lead to the Mohokare, or the Caledon River which forms the western boundary with South Africa. They are both named for their vast quantities of sand which means rapid dipping of feet as one crosses them, leading to both names which may well suggest that this is a 'place of quick sands'. Teyateyaneng's name therefore comes from the southern Teja-tejana River, but the name later changed to Teyateyaneng, perhaps due to British influences as the country became a Protectorate in the late 1800s.

N8 (South Africa)

The N8 is a national route in South Africa that connects Groblershoop with Maseru in Lesotho via Kimberley and Bloemfontein. It is maintained by the South African National Roads Agency.

Thaba Bosiu

Thaba Bosiu is a sandstone plateau with an area of approximately 2 km2 (0.77 sq mi) and a height of 1,804 meters above sea level. It is located between the Orange and Caledon Rivers in the Maseru District of Lesotho, 24 km east of the country's capital Maseru. It was once the capital of Lesotho, having been King Moshoeshoe's stronghold.

Lesotho–South Africa border International border

The border between Lesotho and South Africa is 909 kilometres (565 mi) long and forms a complete loop, as Lesotho is an enclave entirely surrounded by South Africa. The border follows the Caledon River, the drainage divide of the Drakensberg mountains, the Orange River, the Makhaleng River, and a series of hills joining the Makhaleng back to the Caledon.

As of 2013, Lesotho contains three main libraries: The National Library, the Thomas Mofolo Library and National Archives at the University of Lesotho, and the Morija Museum and Archives, though there are a range of "academic and research libraries, documentation centres, school libraries, special libraries, public libraries and a national library services system".

History of rail transport in Lesotho

The history of rail transport in Lesotho began in 1905, when the landlocked nation of Lesotho was connected with the railway network of South Africa. The two nations have remained connected by a single railway line ever since.

The Battle of Naauwpoort Nek refers to a clash between the Trekboers and Basotho warriors on 29 September 1865. Naauwpoort lies immediately to the north of the Free State town of Clarens.

Basotho nationality law

Basotho nationality law is regulated by the Constitution of Lesotho, as amended; the Lesotho Citizenship Order, and its revisions; the 1983 Refugees Act; and various international agreements to which the country is a signatory. These laws determine who is, or is eligible to be, a national of Lesotho. The legal means to acquire nationality, formal legal membership in a nation, differ from the domestic relationship of rights and obligations between a national and the nation, known as citizenship. Nationality describes the relationship of an individual to the state under international law, whereas citizenship is the domestic relationship of an individual within the nation. In Britain and thus the Commonwealth of Nations, though the terms are often used synonymously outside of law, they are governed by different statutes and regulated by different authorities. Basotho nationality is typically obtained under the principle of jus soli, born in Lesotho, or jus sanguinis, i.e. by birth in Lesotho or abroad to parents with Basotho nationality. It can be granted to persons with an affiliation to the country, or to a permanent resident who has lived in the country for a given period of time through naturalisation.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Sam Romaya; Alison Brown (April 1999). "City profile: Maseru, Lesotho". Cities. 16 (2): 123–133. doi:10.1016/S0264-2751(98)00046-8.
  2. A. Mabille; H. Dieterlen (1993). Southern Sotho English Dictionary (reclassified, revised and enlarged by R. A. Paroz; 1950 ed.). Morija: Morija Sesuto Book Depot. p. 349.
  3. Britannica,Maseru,, USA, accessed on July 7, 2019
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  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Karen Tranberg Hansen; Mariken Vaa (2004). Reconsidering Informality: Perspectives from Urban Africa . Nordic African Institute. pp.  180. ISBN   91-7106-518-0.
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  7. James S. Olson, Robert S. Shadle (ed.) (1996). Historical Dictionary of the British Empire. Greenwood Press. p. 118. ISBN   0-313-27917-9.{{cite book}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  8. "It All Went Wrong". The Economist. 349 (8087): 49. September 26, 1998.
  9. "Lesotho billed for South African intervention". BBC News. 1998-10-09. Retrieved 2008-04-14.
  10. "Straw men". Mail & Guardian Online. 2007-03-15. Archived from the original on 2012-06-03. Retrieved 2008-04-14.
  11. Mary Fitzpatrick; Becca Blond; Gemma Pitcher; Simon Richmond; Matt Warren (2004). South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland. Lonely Planet. p. 521. ISBN   1-74104-162-7.
  12. 1 2 3 "Lesotho: Basic data". The Economist Intelligence Unit. March 30, 2007.
  13. Cappelen, John; Jensen, Jens. "Lesotho - Maseru" (PDF). Climate Data for Selected Stations (1931-1960) (in Danish). Danish Meteorological Institute. p. 166. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 27, 2013. Retrieved April 7, 2017.
  14. Fitzpatrick et al. 2004, p. 522
  15. Peete Monolapo (September–October 2007). "Lesotho: The Promise of Africa". Foreign Policy (162).
  16. Britannica, Lesotho,, USA, accessed on July 7, 2019
  17. "SADC Summit 2006". Southern African Development Community. Archived from the original on 2007-11-14. Retrieved 2008-04-15.
  18. "Setsoto Stadium to Be Revamped". Lesotho Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology. Archived from the original on 2008-08-28. Retrieved 2008-04-14.
  19. "Lesotho Teams". Lesotho Football Association. Archived from the original on 2008-09-07. Retrieved 2008-04-13.


Coordinates: 29°19′S27°29′E / 29.31°S 27.48°E / -29.31; 27.48