Which countries share a border with Lesotho?

Travel Destinations

By Kristy Tolley

Lesotho’s Unique Geography

Located in Southern Africa, Lesotho’s geography makes it unique among other countries in the region. It is the only country in the world that is entirely surrounded by another country, South Africa. This landlocked country covers an area of just over 30,000 square kilometers and has a population of approximately two million people. The country is known for its stunning mountain ranges, with the highest peak rising to over 3,000 meters above sea level, making it the highest point in Southern Africa.

South Africa: Lesotho’s Only Neighbor

South Africa is the only country that shares a border with Lesotho. The border stretches for 909 kilometers, with South Africa to the north, west, and south of Lesotho. Due to its landlocked location, Lesotho is heavily dependent on South Africa for its trade and commerce. The countries have a close relationship, with South Africa providing significant support to Lesotho, including financial aid and technical assistance.

North: Border Length & Geographic Features

The northern border is the longest stretch of the Lesotho-South African Border, covering more than 500 kilometers. The terrain is rugged and mountainous, with the Drakensberg Mountains forming part of the border. The highest peak along the border is Thabana Ntlenyana, which stands at 3,482 meters above sea level. The border runs through the Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Conservation Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that spans both countries and is home to unique flora and fauna.

East: The Thin Line with KwaZulu-Natal

The eastern border between Lesotho and KwaZulu-Natal is the shortest stretch of the Lesotho-South African Border, covering only 160 kilometers. The border is formed by the Drakensberg Mountains and the Qacha’s Nek Pass, which is the only road link between the two countries. The pass provides a vital link for Lesotho’s imports and exports, making it an essential economic lifeline for the country.

West: Free State’s Border with Lesotho

The western border between Lesotho and Free State Province is the second-longest stretch of the Lesotho-South African Border, covering over 300 kilometers. The border follows the Caledon River, which forms a natural boundary between the two countries. The river is an important source of water for both countries, with Lesotho providing a significant portion of South Africa’s water supply.

South: The Complex Border with Eastern Cape

The southern border between Lesotho and Eastern Cape Province is the most complex stretch of the Lesotho-South African Border. The border covers over 200 kilometers and is formed by the Orange River and its tributaries. The border is also marked by a series of enclaves, where Lesotho territory is surrounded by South African territory. The enclaves have been a source of tension and conflict between the two countries, with many disputes arising over land ownership and resource rights.

Border Control: Crossing into Lesotho

Crossing into Lesotho from South Africa requires a valid passport and visa. The main border posts are Maseru Bridge, Ficksburg Bridge, and Caledonspoort. The border posts are manned by immigration and customs officials from both countries. Due to the close relationship between the two countries, the border posts are generally efficient, with minimal delays.

Economic Implications of a Single Border

As a landlocked country, Lesotho is heavily reliant on South Africa for its imports and exports. The single border with South Africa has significant economic implications for Lesotho, with the country relying on the neighboring country for access to its ports and transportation links. The two countries are also members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which promotes regional integration and cooperation.

Political Relations with South Africa

Lesotho and South Africa have a complex political relationship, with South Africa playing a significant role in Lesotho’s internal politics. South Africa has intervened several times in Lesotho’s political crises, most notably in 1998 and 2014. While the interventions were aimed at restoring stability in Lesotho, they raised questions about Lesotho’s sovereignty and independence.

Historical Significance of Lesotho’s Borders

Lesotho’s borders have a rich history, dating back to the 19th century when the country was founded. The borders were established by treaties between the Basotho people and British colonial authorities. The Basotho people managed to secure a large degree of autonomy and self-governance, retaining their traditional customs and laws, despite British colonialism and later South African apartheid.

Border Disputes: Past and Present

The Lesotho-South African Border has been the source of several disputes between the two countries. Most notable are the enclaves along the southern border, which have been a source of tension for decades. The disputes have led to several border skirmishes, with both countries accusing each other of encroaching on their territory.

Conclusion: The Significance of Lesotho’s Borders

Lesotho’s unique geography and its single border with South Africa have significant economic, political, and historical implications for the country. The border has been a source of both cooperation and conflict between the two countries, with Lesotho often at the mercy of South Africa’s political and economic power. Despite the challenges, however, Lesotho has managed to maintain its independence and unique cultural identity, thanks in part to its borders.

Photo of author

Kristy Tolley

Kristy Tolley, an accomplished editor at TravelAsker, boasts a rich background in travel content creation. Before TravelAsker, she led editorial efforts at Red Ventures Puerto Rico, shaping content for Platea English. Kristy's extensive two-decade career spans writing and editing travel topics, from destinations to road trips. Her passion for travel and storytelling inspire readers to embark on their own journeys.

Leave a Comment