Merwyn Bosworth Smith, founder of Malealea Trading Store, was born at Harrow School, England in 1878. His father was Assistant Master there for 37 years. Merwyn had five brothers and three sisters. All his brothers were educated at Harrow, but Merwyn went to Rugby, where he excelled at rugby and athletics. He was also a brilliant scholar, writing Latin prose at 14 years old. On leaving school he went to Oxford University.


In about 1898 he came to South Africa and taught/coached rugby at Bishops. This was too tame for him, so he went to try his hand on the Diamond Diggings at Lichtenberg, where he did not have much luck. He decided to join the B.S.A.P. in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), where he said he did not do much police work, as he played rugby most of the time. At the outbreak of the Boer War, he returned and joined the Dorset Regiment and served throughout the war. At the end of the war, he went to Maseru to visit his brother, Reginald, who had joined the Colonial Service and had been sent to Basutoland as Government Secretary.


Merwyn was fascinated by the country and spent months riding around the country, shooting for the pot, as he went along. One of the places he camped at, was Malealea. He fell in love with the place and decided to open a Trading Station there. He had to return to England to get permission, and was assisted by some of his school companions, who were by now in high places. On returning to Malealea he started in a tent, first building the store and sheds and then starting on the house, which was built of cut stone and under thatch. A swimming pool, covered by thatch, was also built, and a tennis court. As Merwyn was a fanatic for bridge and billiards he had a billiard table brought to Malealea by ox wagon, as were all the building materials. The big verandah had all his shooting trophies on the walls. Many also hung out in the Bloemfontein and Rand Clubs. The lounge and billiard rooms were wood panelled. The lounge was a replica of the lounge at Binghams Melcon Dorset, which was the family house, when his father retired from Harrow.


He was well established, when the 1914 - 1918 war broke out. He returned to England and again joined the Dorset Regiment, who he served with throughout the war. He developed "Trench Leg", which was a problem for the rest of his life. After the war he returned to Malealea and in 1919 got married. These were golden years. Trade flourished and they used to go on shooting safaris in Rhodesia, Caprivi Strip and the Zambezi Valley, - on one occasion, taking Basotho Ponies with them. They also had frequent trips to England to visit his family. They entertained a lot at Malealea and used to ride to Qaba to play tennis with his great friend, Jarvis. Merwyn's wife had a cheetah as a pet, but it had a depressing effect on trade, so was given to the Johannesburg Zoo!!!


The depression years nearly put Malealea out of business, but a Johannesburg friend gave Merwyn 12,000 pound bond to tide him over. Many of the local Basotho had credit to buy food during this period and they never forgot "MOFANA" for this. He was called "MOFANA", because when he first arrived he spoke "Fanagalo". Later he spoke Sesotho fluently.


The war years brought prosperity, which continued to his death in 1951. During the war R.A.F. pupil pilots were entertained at Malealea. Pay for serving Basotho in the army was paid out to local families at Malealea. Merwyn arranged that on this day the R.A.F. sent a plane over Malealea to do a few acrobatics and Victory Rolls. At the end of the war, he had name plates made with the name and rank number of all the Basotho, who had fallen in the war. Oak trees from Malealea were planted at the police camp in Maseru and the idea was that each oak tree would have one of the name plates nailed to it.


During and after the war he had two partners, first Scholl, then Crooks. He also had The Falls Store at Maletsunyane, but sold this to Frasers at the end of the war. All supplies went up by pack horse and the mohair, wool and wheat used to come to Malealea in big pack pony trains, and then he classed, graded and sent it off by transport to Rail Head, Wepener.


During the last years of Mervyn's life, he used to spend the winter months on the Zambezi at a Shooting Lodge he built. He had rondavels and a motor boat called "Queen Elizabeth". At this stage his one car was called "George" and the other "Elizabeth". He used to go up to Johannesburg for a week just to play Bridge.


All his life he had a passion for road making and had to make the road from the "Gates of Paradise" to Malealea, to get building supplies to Malealea. In his latter years he used to set off with labourers, spades, picks and wheelbarrows to repair the road. One corner was known as "Tickey Draai" and another as "Sixpenny Draai". The original wording at the "neck" as he called it, was: "Wayfarer Pause, Behold, The Gates of Paradise". He always did this when he came home to Malealea.


His other passion was letter writing. He used to write to "The Friend" newspaper in Bloemfontein entitled "Basutoland from within", which covered every subject from Incorporation in the Union to strip roads for Basutoland on the Rhodesian Model.


During the Royal Visit the King and Queen were to have visited Malealea, but only the rest of the Royal Party came for a luncheon. The well known BBC announcer Wynfred Vaughn Thomas gave a report of the visit in one of his BBC reports. Mervyn attended all the functions in Maseru and he proudly wore his war medals at the Ex Service Men’s Parade. The King stopped to speak to him and said, "I see you served in the SA War, as well as 1914 - 918". To which Mervyn replied, "No Your Majesty, not the SA War, I served in the Boer War". A cousin of Merwyn's was one of the Ladies in Waiting to the Queen, so he got a few `behind the scenes' stories of the tour.


Mervyn died suddenly in January 1950 and was buried in the garden, by the Bishop of Basutoland. He had no headstone as Malealea is his memorial. Malealea was left in trust to his son, Anthony, but his partner, Crooks, had an option to purchase under the partnership agreement. After a long and expensive court action in the Supreme Court, it was ruled that the Trust Deed was not valid, because it had not been initialled on one page and Crooks exercised his option to purchase.


Soon after Crooks moved into the big house from the Cottage, the big house burnt down. There is only a bird bath, built out of stone, with ANNO VIC, chiselled around the top, that remains from the original house. Merwyn had this bird bath built at the end of the war "Year of Victory".

Mervyn always maintained that the first thing a person saw, when visiting a Trading Station in Basutoland, was the "Long Drop or Kleinhuisie". He built his hidden away inside the bank below the house and had a beautiful view of the Thaba Putsoa range of mountains to gaze upon, in complete privacy. It has now been restored.


Many tales were told by Government Officials, Police, Tourists, who used to stay over at Malealea, before trekking into the mountains. They all enjoyed great hospitality at Malealea and if they played Bridge and Billiards, even more so. Snooker was only tolerated for Ladies. The leather bound billiard score books also stand as a diary for important happenings, such as bomb raids over Germany, The Invasion, Visits by Important People etc.


Stories about Merwyn begin with how he used to ride to Maseru or Mafeteng on a pony to play rugby, with an alarm clock tied around his neck, which he would set for half hours ahead, in case he dozed off and could wake up to check if the pony was still on course. He is reputed to have galloped down the gorge into the Ribaneng River, and that path was always known as "Mervyn's Ladder".


AFTER A WILD PARTY IN BLOEMFONTEIN, Mervyn and his friends decided to go back to Malealea to continue the party. A stranger, they had met, came along as well. In the car he was lolling to one side, then to the other side, but no one took any notice of him as they thought he was drunk. On arrival it was found he was DEAD !!! A wake lasting a few days was held and he lay inside on the Billiard Table and was duly buried under the Cherry Trees. Mervyn always referred to the grave as "The Stranger's Grave".


An extract from Kate Cretchley’s version of the Stranger’s death! “ I doubt it was the fact that the hitchhiker was DOA when Mervyn and his pals reached the mountain station of Malealea after a fairly lively weekend in Bloemfontein. I also doubt that it caused much of a headache when they stowed the old guy under the snooker table and went ahead with the intended game. However, it must have been a bit annoying to have been awoken by the scream of the early rising housemaid who found the old boy rather difficult to rouse, even when the best Malealea coffee was offered. A wake was held lasting some several days to see the dear departed on his way to the pearly gates, during which time he lay in state on the snooker table, and the grave of this total stranger still can be seen not twenty yards away from that of old Mervyn Smith who, out of the kindness of his heart, brought the old man to die in peace and tranquillity of Malealea, over fifty years ago.”


Mervyn and his friend, Kenneth Nolan, were also known to have ridden through the Wepener Hotel on their "Trusting Steeds" !


Keith Jandrell bought Malealea in 1961 from Norman Crooks. Various managers lived at Malealea operating the trading station. An airstrip was built at Malealea and the Jandrell family visited Malealea regularly for week-ends and holidays.


MICK & DI JONES (1986 – 2020)

Mick & Di Jones bought Malealea in December, 1986. The idea was to start a very casual lodge and continue with the Trading Station. The Trading Station burnt down on 6th March, 1987 due to a gas deep freeze. As the floors, walls & ceilings were all wood, the shop went up in flames within minutes. Mick was awakened in the early hours of the morning with a comment by the night watchman “There seems to be a small problem at the shop!!!”


An enormous steel structure was erected for the Trading Station Over the years the Trading Station has declined and the lodge has grown from 10 to 104 beds. The shop was made smaller and the space was used to build a games room, bar and a dining room & kitchen. Over the years, Nick King, an Australian friend, after driving overland trips from London to Harare, spent a couple of months at a time at Malealea renovating the lodge.


Sadly, Mick passed away in January, 2020 and Di has retired to Clarens where she runs “Butterfly Beds” guesthouse. The lodge is now run by the next Generation.

Script taken from David S. Fick, Author of Entrepreneurship in Africa.

In December 1986, Mick and Di Jones assumed management of the trading complex and in 1989 they bought the property and transformed Malealea into a fully functional self-catering lodge. Mick and Di had moved to Malealea to lease for three years, but due to the shop burning down in February 1987, they were forced to make a decision -- either to leave or rebuild and buy, which they did in April 1987. They bought the shop, knowing that it was running at a loss, but hoping they would get the shop going again. They liked the idea of starting a lodge for fun, not knowing at all whether it would take off or not, as the road at that time was a rocky track and a 4x4 was really needed to get to Malealea. The determined visitors managed to get there bumping in their two wheel drives. They have now closed down the Trading Store and this is an opportunity for the local shopkeepers in the village to grow and improve their shops.


Mick and Di have made significant improvements to Malealea Lodge over the years to accommodate an increasing number of visitors and made Malealea and Lesotho a cultural tourism destination. Mick and Di were both born in Lesotho and are credited with more local knowledge than anyone. They have made enormous contributions to Malealea, its people, and to Lesotho. They frequently have large groups stay at Malealea and have supported U.S. Peace Corps training groups for several months at a time. It was Mick and Di Jones who started a model of ecotourism and community empowerment, which is really impressive. In the evenings around a campfire, guests are entertained by music and dance groups from the village, and payment is made directly to these entertainers. Most of them are students, which means that they are now more able to pay school fees and other costs.


Mick and Di started the original lodge with five bedrooms, twelve beds and two shared bathrooms. Accommodations at Malealea Lodge now comprise (104 beds) twenty-two en-suite rondavels (round cottages), seventeen en-suite standard, as well as five Basotho huts (with five outside communal bathrooms). Linen and towels are provided while catering is at an extra charge. Two communal kitchens are also provided. For budget travellers, there are nine forest huts (with four outside communal bathrooms). Camping is also available. Electricity is supplied by a generator, which is turned off late at night, so it is recommended that guests bring a torch.


Mick and Di Jones specialize in pony trekking and can arrange one hour to six-day treks. Villagers have been encouraged to form the Pony Owners Association, and members take turns hiring their mounts to visitors. Accommodation on overnight treks is in basic Basotho huts, and this system also provides an income to the owners. Young men from the village (who are able to speak some English) work as tour guides, for which they charge an hourly or daily fee. These treks explore spectacular mountain passes and provide opportunities for visitors to interact with local tribes, viewing remarkable San (Bushman) rock paintings and marvel at three of Lesotho’s highest waterfalls.


An important reciprocal relationship exists between Malealea Lodge and the surrounding community. The philosophy is one of interdependency. Mick and Di believe that tourism can play a constructive role in contributing towards the well being of the community who share their lives with tourists visiting the valley. There are numerous community development activities in Malealea coordinated by the Malealea Development Trust. Projects include a small orphanage, a community library, the development of a sports facility, a wind turbine electricity generating project for the local high school, as well as a wetlands reclamation project and a village waste disposal project. The two main (but not separate) areas of focus are development and education. Development activities engage members of the community in identifying and addressing their own needs in a way that can lead to an improved life. Education activities are integrally related to the development activities: people learn what they need to learn in order to carry out the development initiatives, which they have identified as appropriate. Development and education thus go hand in hand.



Lesotho, a small mountainous kingdom is popularly known as “The Switzerland of Africa”. The country is completely landlocked by South Africa and the common mode of transport is the sturdy Basotho Pony. In fact, to explore the deeper areas of the country, this is the only mode of transport, which can take the adventurous tourist to remote areas.


A Pony Trekking Association has been formed, and a committee is elected. We hand the bookings to the association every week and they organize which horses and guides take the treks. Horse Owners have realized the importance of strong and healthy horses.
One day a German Tour Operator wanted to have a look at the horses used for the trekking. We asked a Basotho Guide to bring his best horse. Well when we went to have a look at it, to us it was the scruffiest, untidiest looking horse. On questioning the guide, he informed us that “Sister” was their best and strongest horse for getting up the mountain passes. We have since had reports from clients that “Sister” is indeed the best horse they have ridden.


Guides are learning to communicate and speak broken English with their visitors. One particular bright young guide often asks the clients the meanings of words he does not understand and immediately tries to use the words in further conversations. One couple were so pleased with their trek, they took their guide to the Lesotho Sun for lunch. This was an experience of a lifetime for someone who previously had only been herding cattle & sheep.


There are a quite a few young & older guides who have managed to build their own houses from income received for guiding and hiring out their horses. Horses arrive from all directions and eventually, almost on time, the treks set off: - Clients, Pack Horses and Guides into the distant mountains. “Amongst this confusion of horses there seems to be some sort of organized chaos,” mused a client.


Within the first half hour of the pony trek, nerves are tested by going down the gorge to the Makhaleng river. One way of doing it, it is said is to “Close your eyes, hold tightly onto your horse and pretend not to hear the rocks rolling down the mountainside.” But you needn’t be worried, the Guides are excellent in the way they coax the horses and nervous clients down the gorge and across the river. En route to the remote villages you come across magnificent scenery and are often lucky enough to come across various activities, like boys preparing for initiation school. Bali Girls and a Sangoma throwing her bones.


It is etiquette for the guides to introduce the visitors the chiefs of the various villages and to inform them of their destination. As the areas are really remote, the children are curious to see the visitors. It is as if the circus has come to town!!!


Local traditions are explained to visitors as they pass by villages.
When passing a certain place, (generally between two hills) where there is a heap of small stones piled together, one should pick up another stone alongside the path, spit on it and throw it on the heap. This is an omen of good luck and good eating along the journey and at the destination. Common mountains of Sefikeng and Sefikaneng derived their names from such big heaps made there in olden times.


Basotho Huts are hired in really remote areas of Lesotho. Half the accommodation fee is paid to the owner of the hut and the balance is kept in a fund for buying equipment for old and new huts opening as the trekking gets busier. The huts at this stage are equipped with mattresses on the floor, gas cookers, very basic pots & pans and a bucket of water.


Arriving at the hut in the late afternoon, in time to see the herd boys returning with the cattle & sheep, which are kept in the kraal nearby the huts where you stay. Firewood is scarce on the high mountain ranges, so fire is made from scrub and dried out cow-dung. The meals are prepared in large three-legged black pots.


The children often sing for visitors in the evenings and are rewarded. This is still spontaneous and just seems to happen without any rehearsals. Come morning, the sounds of the cocks crowing, donkeys braying, cows mooing and pigs grunting gently wakes you up. No chance of a late morning sleep, but the spectacular sunrise is more than enough compensation for this sacrifice.


There are many stories of delightful experiences in the villages. There is the story of the hen sitting on her eggs in the window-sill of a hut. Another group later reported that the chicks and hen still occupied the window-sill. Another group told with great relish of the chief who offered them home-made beer from a large black drum. Suddenly the donkey came along and also had a drink of beer from the same drum!!!



There are many places of interest at the various villages and for a small fee, visitors will be guided by the local villagers to these sights. Back at base camp, Basotho children are encouraged to take clients on short hikes to Gorges, Bushman Paintings Etc, so gaining experience to be future overnight trekking guides. Staying at the different villages affords an extra income for the villagers and we have feedback that they enjoy hosting the visitors.


BASOTHO PEOPLE HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY OF GROWING AND COOKING THEIR OWN FOOD FOR RESALE TO VISITORS So for example will different coloured plastic bags attached to a pole outside the huts indicate various products for sale. Catering for Tourism is developing as the Basotho people have the opportunity of growing and cooking their own food for resale to visitors.


For guests not wanting to pony trek, there are various other forms of encouraging local tourism by making use of local transport:

1.              There is hiking in the company of innovative inventors, 2)

2.              Coming in on wings and a prayer,

3.              In Style,

4.              An environmental friendly merc or 

5.              Rowing down the river. A particularly pleasant experience is the friendliness and helpfulness of the Basotho people.


There is the story of the family whose car broke down in a remote area. A Basotho man took them into their village and then gave them a lift to Maseru in his “Clapped out Bakkie”. He was most informative about daily happenings and culture in the villages and turned out to be a talented tour guide. This was actually the highlight of the family’s stay in Lesotho. From Maseru they then hired a local taxi back to the lodge late that night and again found the taxi owner to be a natural tour operator.


The Keg Group tells of their delightful and unexpected pleasure when doing a pub crawl in the village shebeens. The Basotho Shebeens were so welcoming and honoured that our guests were visiting them, they wanted to kill a sheep there and then and great cultural interaction took place. The bar was then named “The Keg & Pere”, which is the Sesotho name for Horse.


I was once photographing a herdboy with his sheep & goats. I jokingly said to him, “Please make your goats move to another area.” With that he took out his “Basotho Leseba” (kind of a flute), whistled and played a tune. The goats were directed to where we wanted them to go. While I was on the original 6 day recce trip with two friends and a Basotho Guide, Tseliso, we must have set off in one of the highest rainfall seasons in Lesotho. On the third day, while riding in three hours of solid rain to our next hut destination, we all decided we had had enough and asked Tseliso if we could get back a day earlier. He shook his head and said there was no way and the horses plodded along. I then said to Tseliso “ How about if we pay you for a 6 day trek, but we get home in 5 days!!!” Well from that moment the horses just took off and we got home a day earlier. On the trek Chief Puli sent us a tray of tea in his best enamel tea pot and mugs, decorated with flowers. His village is called “Sekoting sa lifarike” (which means, “The trough which the pigs dug,” as this valley is surrounded by a magnificent ring of mountains,)


My father did a lot of work in Lesotho building sheep dipping stations in really remote areas. Two of his favourite stories indicate different culture values: This story was told in the 1970’s.

He met two horsemen and a little boy who was walking behind the horses and hobbling away behind in much pain. After the usual exchange of greetings the following conversation took place:


1ST SPEAKER: “ Where are you going to?”

“ Why are you going to hospital?”

“Why does your son walk and not ride a horse when his ankle is broken?

BASOTHO MEN “We are going to the hospital”. “We are taking our son, as he has broken his ankle.” “ Oh! He does not have his own horse!!!”


The second story deals with transport of goods to inaccessible areas. The goods were awkward and it was difficult to load these particular goods onto the donkeys. After much discussion the Basotho contractor said he would get the goods to their destination. On arrival my father was curious as to how the goods had arrived, as he knew it was impossible on the donkeys. “Oh” the contractor replied “We just hired women to carry the goods on their heads!


The Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho may be rough and tough, but it is at the same time as gentle as a spring flower, soft as the summer grass covering the undulating hills, refreshing as a sparkling mountain stream in autumn and awesome and austere as a winter landscape.

Whatever your choice of climate may be, Lesotho can provide. Of particular value is the quiet nearness of nature offering the overworked and over stressed a tranquillity nowhere else to be equalled. This makes Lesotho the ideal venue for conferences, because it forces people to leave behind their day to day routines so restricting for creative and innovative thinking. People caught in ruts are so busy fighting for their daily survival in competitive environments that they can’t afford to risk replacing old ideas with new ones for fear of failure. Trekking in Lesotho restores those long forgotten feelings of daring and adventure.


Well take those same life weary people and throw them into the cultural environments and experiences of a Lesotho Trek and they cannot but open their eyes and minds to the people around them, who behave differently, have different needs, priorities and goals in completely different circumstances. Yet the observer is surprised to find that the challenges are the same: Survival: Profit: Competition: & Quality of Life.

The discovery of this awareness inadvertently opens the eyes and suddenly, standing the clear crisp dawn you find that you are beginning to think differently. While you marvel at the quaintness of the people around you, you find that you are actually learning from them. Of course, facing the adventures of a trek is excellent for team building. All in all, there will be times when a pony trek in Lesotho, may force you to close your eyes and there will be times when it will open your eyes. Either way you return to your own environment with a greater energy and a new outlook


Landlocked in the centre of South Africa, Lesotho is one of the few countries in Africa with natural boundaries created by tribal demands rather than those imposed by colonial decree. There are few natural resources and population pressures have decreased the agricultural potential, but the country has an almost overwhelming natural beauty coupled with welcoming, generous people. Much of Lesotho is covered by the high Maluti Mountains, and indeed even the lowlands, where most of Lesotho's 1.5 million people love, only fall to 1,300 m above sea level - The Highest Lowest Point of any country in the world. The Maluti are a rugged, wild range, ideal for trekking holidays, though they inevitably create their own climate, which can lead to sudden temperature drops, low cloud and thunderstorms. The visible history goes back at least 30,000 years, with cave paintings and other Bushman relics found in numerous scattered sites.


Southern Africa was inhabited by dispersed nomadic hunters, the San, for many thousands of years, and their artistic talents have shown us many sides of their way of life, form dancing, hunting and fishing to scenes from semi-settled family life. However the San ( known as Bushman by white settlers, and as Baroa by the Basotho tribes of Bantu origin), were persecuted from the moment they were seen by outsiders and long ago retreated to the Kalahari sands, their last refuge.


In the early 19th Century, at the height of power of Shaka, king of the Zulu, many of his subjugated chiefs took flight in an attempt to form their own dominions. The result was a period of error throughout central southern Africa known as Difaqane, or "Time of Calamity", and a scattering of the Sotho-speaking tribes of the highveld. The Maluti mountains formed a natural defence against marauding invaders, and many small tribal groups attempted to take refuge in the region. One such group, led by the enterprising chief Moshesh, selected a small steep-sided plateau at Butha-Buthe which they successfully defended for two years before moving to a better fortress at Thaba Bosiu - "Mountain of the Night". For ten years Thaba Bosiu proved impregnable to all-comers and the name rapidly gained fame. Fugitives from Difaqane flocked to the Mountain at Night and were incorporated into the tribe. By 1830 the tribe had become a large cohesive unit, newly-proud people who just a short time before had been skulking in the surrounding hills and valleys to escape slaughter and famine. They began to call themselves Basotho, or Sotho people, and to refer to their small kingdom as Lesotho.


Moshesh, by now known as Moshoeshoe, grew in stature as his military skill and diplomacy matured, and his kingdom remained unconquered until shortly before his death, in 1870. The British were called in to rescue the situation after the successful Boer invasion of 1868 and the protectorate of Basutoland was declared soon after.


Multi-party politics took hold in the 1950's and independence was eventually wrested from the British in 1966. There followed the almost inevitable 20 years, conflict in-fighting and coups d’état. When the long-time strongman, Chief Jonathan, turned towards Marxism and a 55 one-party system South Africa imposed a full blockade on land-locked Lesotho, and probable instigated the coup of 1986 that overthrew Jonathan and re-instated the authority of King Moshoeshoe ll, (great-great-great grandson of Lesotho's founding father), as Head of State.


Since then the government has remained successful, stable, and popular. Development is moving ahead apace, particularly that funded from South Africa, and Lesotho is showing signs of an ability to exist without outside assistance. Moshoeshoe II died in a car accident in January, 1996 and has been succeeded by his son, Chief Letsie lll.


MT. QILOANE - Basotho Hats are designed from this mountain, which is also situated opposite the famous Thaba Bosiu Mountain, where Moshoeshoe I founded the Basotho Nation.


Moshoeshoe was born at Menkhoaneng village in the vicinity of Botha-Bothe in the North of Lesotho. His father, Mokhachane was the leader of a small junior branch of the Bakoena tribe. He himself was subordinate of Mpiti, Chief of Sekake who was his kinsman. Moshoeshoe was born roughly in 1786, but since the Basotho did not keep strict account of their age the date is approximate. The Greatness of the Man can be ascribed to his sagacity and his diplomacy which grasped the situation occasioned by the Lifaqane wars. Taking advantage of this situation, he was able to build the Basotho Nation.


Moshoeshoe chose Thaba-Bosiu because it was a stronger natural fortress than Botha- Bothe which he had held before. It was also on the left bank of the Caledon River and consequently less open to invaders from Natal. The mountain is flat-topped and it is situated in the valley of the Phuthiatsana river. It is about fifteen miles east of the junction of this river with Mohakare or Caledon that divides Lesotho from the Free State. It rises about 350 ft. from the surrounding valley and its summit is surrounded by a belt of perpendicular cliffs some 40 ft. high on the average.

The summit has an area of about 4 square miles. To get on the summit, one has to ascend one of the six passes, namely Khubelu or the Red Pass which is also known as Wepener’s Pass, so named on account of the death of Louw Wepener, the Free State Commandant who was killed by the Basotho in 1865. There is alos Ramaseli Pass named after Moshoeshoe’s warrior who guarded it. Maebeng Pass, Mokhachane and Makara and Rahebe are respectively other passes leading to the summit.


The name of Thaba Bosiu means the “Mountain of the Night”. It was in July, 1824 when Moshoeshoe and his people took occupation of the mountain which his brother Mohale had reconnoitred. He named the mountain Thaba Bosiu - Mountain at Night - because he and his people arrived there in the evening and the essential protective work took him until late at night. Many years later the news to intimidate his enemies was spread that at night time, the mountain grew larger than usual.


There were at least eight good springs of fresh water on the mountain and when Moshoeshoe and his followers, with their cattle, first moved to Thaba Bosiu, they occupied the summit where they were safe from attack and where there was plenty of pasture and water for the cattle. Gradually as more and more refugees from the ravaging Zulu hordes flocked to Moshoeshoe for protection, villages sprang up around the foot of the hill and in 1828 there were over 3,000 people living on the mountain and in the twenty-two villages around its flanks.


Eleven years later Backhouse reported that there were 1,500 inhabitants on the top of the mountain alone. Moshoeshoe’s own village was situated between the Khubelu and Ramaseli passes: that of his father, Mokhachane, was located on the western buttress: and None’s settlement guarded the southern buttress; whilst the other villages were grouped around the north and west flanks.


On the 28th June, 1833, three French Protestant Missionaries - Eugene Cassalis, Thomas Arbouset and Constant Gosselin - arrived at Thaba Bosiu at the invitation of King Moshoeshoe. In 1838, they completed building a mission house and a chapel, and Casalis stationed at Thaba Bosiu to take charge of the mission. King Moshoeshoe has a fruitful mutual relationship with the missionaries. For example, Casalis practically became the King’s secretary and acted as interpreter in all dealings with white people. By 1840, the Paris Evangelical Mission Society had nine stations in Moshoeshoe’s country at which they taught religion and literacy. As a result, Lesotho today has the highest literacy rate in Africa. The missionaries also introduced new crop plants such as wheat and peaches which have become important in the country’s agriculture.


There is very little trace of Moshoeshoe’s first village for by 1939 he had already begun to build rectangular stone houses after the European style. In 1837 ex-private David F. Webber, a deserter from the 72nd Seaforth Highlanders, eventually reached Thaba Bosiu, where he was given a shelter and in 1841 Moshoeshoe obtained a pardon for him from the Army authorities. Webber was a good mason and carpenter and in 1839 he commenced to build a rectangular stone house for Moshoeshoe. It was in European style and the Chief had intimated that he had only provided accommodation in it for one wife. There is no record of the builder who assisted Webber, but there is the name R. Murphie and the date 1839 engraved on a nearby rock face. This is well cut by a person accustomed to using stone-dressing tools and it is very possible that Murphie co-operated with Webber in the capacity of stone dresser.


This house was situated very near the top of the Khubelu Pass, just beyond and to the right of the main entrance to the settlement. The entrance itself is marked by three stones, although in the time of Moshoeshoe there were only two sets 15 ft. apart. Here visitors were required to halt and wait until their arrival had been announced to Moshoeshoe and permission had been given for them to proceed. It was also the custom for each visitor, as a mark of respect to the chief, to add a stone to a pile on the left hand side of the entrance and the broken remnants of this cairn still remain.


The house whose walls still remain was built much later by Ntlama or Mothunts’ana, a relative of Moshoeshoe. It consisted of a bedroom and a sitting room and a door made of wood and the windows were large and had glass panes. The King lived in this house though he continued to sleep in his traditional hut. In this rectangular thatched house he kept furniture which included a set of tea-cups which he had from Paris at Maison des Missions. In addition he kept his blue military suit, green military jacket and trousers and other European clothes and various untensils.


Thaba Bosiu was never conquered by Invaders. The various invaders, namely the Ngwane, the Korannas, the British and the Boers failed in their attempt to overcome the Basotho in their respective raids on various occasions.


In 1828, shortly after the arrival of Moshoeshoe at Thaba Bosiu, Matiwane, Chief of AmaNgwane, who since the beginning of that year had dominated the Inhabitants of the Caledon Valley, tried to conquer the Basotho under Moshoeshoe. In a great battle that was fought at Thaba Bosiu, Matiwane’s regiments were routed and the AmaNgwane ceased to be a threat to Moshoeshoe.


Since 1831 coloured raiders had been making forays into the Caledon Valley.The raiders repeatedly attacked Moshoeshoe’s subjects very close to Thaba Bosiu. Sometimes they got clear away with Basotho women, children and cattle, but they were driven away although they were armed with fire-arms and fought on horseback. In 1831, the Ndebele of Mzilikazi who had created a military state on the Zulu model north of the Vaal, invaded Lesotho. On their arrival at Thaba Bosiu, they began to scale the mountain at Rafutho’s Pass, but the Basotho hurled boulders, stones and javelins down on them from behind their walled fortifications. According to tradition, as the Ndebele withdrew


Moshoeshoe delivered some fat oxen with the message that he thought hunger had brouht them to this country. As a consequence, Mzilikazi did not launch another attack in the Caledon Valley.

Thaba Bosiu’s renown as a citadel was, therefore, established by the repulse of the formidable Ndebele army. Moshoeshoe had emerged triumphant from African invaders only to be threatened by invaders from the British Colony of the Cape of Good Hope.


In 1852, the Cape Governor, Sir George Cathcart, invaded Moshoeshoe because he had been convinced by the Boers that the Basotho had stolen their cattle. In a battle which was fought on the Berea plateau and later on the plain some three miles west of Thaba Bosiu, Cathcart on his way to the fortress was attacked by 5,000 mounted Basotho armed with muskets and spears and battle-axes. The British had to withdraw. The time for diplomacy had come.


By 1854, the British had given independence to the Boers and they established their Republic, named the Orange Free State. As the country originally occupied by the Basotho had been handed over to the Boers, there was bound to be war between Moshoeshoe’s people and immigrants. The area between the Orange and the Caledon was claimed by the Boers and here Basotho villages and Boer farmers were interspersed.


The most serious was with the Free State started in 1865. The Free State commando were more than before determined to destroy the Basotho people. Thaba Bosiu withstood the last attack during Moshoeshoe’s life time, and with the death of Louw Wepener, the most ruthless of the Boer Commandants, the Free State joined the long succession of people whose leaders failed to storm the mountain. These were Matiwane in 1828, the Korannas in 1831, Mzilikazi’s army in 1831, Sir George Cathcart in 1852, Boshof who was President of the Free State in 1858.


Today, Thaba Bosiu is the most venerated site in Lesotho, for it is not only the mountain where the Basotho Nation was founded, but it is also the burial place of Moshoeshoe and of the leading Chiefs of Lesotho, the “Sons of Moshoeshoe”. It was the custom until recently for chiefs to visit the summit early in the morning before going to an important meeting and runners would drive special oxen through the night to await the chief’s arrival on the hill.


Thaba Bosiu today, is a national monument having been so declared by Lesotho Government in 1967. Ruins of the buildings are still standing.


In times of national catastrophes and psychological stress, the people look upon the mountain as a source of inspiration and guidance which since the times of the Great King sustained their spirit in their upward struggle for freedom and political Independence.


In 1870, the Great King died on the 11th March on the Mountain upon which he had lived since his youth. Just two years before, on the 12th March 1868, Lesotho had been declaredBritish Territory and the Bastotho British subjects through Moshoeshoe’s request to the Cape Governor Sir Philip Wodehouse. Four years later in 1872 Lesotho was annexed to the Cape Colony.



by Sven Ouzman - Rock Art Department.

E-mail: rockart@nasmus.co.za www.nasmus.co.za


This is a multi-component, cross-temporal site characterised by many superimpositions. The paintings are executed in the ‘classic’ manner - that is , they have muted hues and a rounded, three-dimensional appearance and this is the tradition that extends back 27 000 years, though the paintings we see in shelters today will be considerably younger. The imagery is painted in monochrome, bichrome, polychrome and shaded polychrome techniques.


Eland (Taurotragus oryx) are present - up to 11 individual - and represent the most spiritually potent animal to Bushman people. The eland, it was believed, was an animal of immense supernatural potency. This supernatural potency - what the !King San call n/um, is present in fat. The more the fat - and the eland has much fat; interestingly it is the male eland and not the female, that has the most fat. Tohlong 1 is notable for the many finely detailed depictions of rhebuck (Pelea capreolus); an animal important to Bushmen in that its social organisation - it aggregates in large family groups as well as disperses in smaller groups is a natural analogue for Bushman social organisation. The site is also notable for the three human figures that utilise natural nodule hollows for heads - something found at very, very few sites. There are at least 3 felines depicted and these symbolise the malevolent, anti-social forces, often personified by evil medicine people or shamans. The entire 3m x 1,4 m panel has strong shamanistic referents like, for example, the human figures with dancing sticks - used when the n/um or supernatural potency ‘boiled’ so painfully in the stomach’s of the trance-dancers, that they had to bend over and support their weight on dancing sticks.

TOHLANG II (Daddy long-legs shelter)

This shelter, just north of Tohlong I has a most remarkable running human figure, -the legs of this figure are1,2m long. Also, this figure is infibulated -it has a bar across its penis. This was not a real practice but relates to a hunting belief wherein the new hunter was not allowed to follow the first large buck he shot. He had to stay in camp while other hunters tracked his prey. During this time it was believed that the hunter and prey shared a strong bond and that actions on the part of one would affect actions on the part of the other. Thus, while the poison from the Bushman’s arrow coursed through the animal’s body, the hunter could not urinate, lest the prey do so too and expel the poison from its body. This shelter also has 7 cyprinid fish painted, metaphor for ‘underwater’ or ‘being in trance’. Though all the figures in this shelter appear as monochrome red, each would have had various white painted bits, but the white has since faded.

TOHLANG III (Upside-down eland shelter)

This shelter has imagery depicted in quite bright pigments and is characteristic of sites painted within the last 400 years or so. The site does Not seem to have had many episodes of painting, but what it does have, is a strong thematic unity. The 2m x 0,7m main panel of the 14 hunters and 6 eland is in a good state of preservation. The hunt is unlikely to be a literal hunt as archaeologically we find mismatch between excavated animal remains from shelters - dassie, rhebuck, grysbok and so on - and that found painted - large antelope were seldom eaten. For the Bushmen, the eland was spiritually their most important animal - much like the lamb is in Christianity. Eland were ambiguous animals because the male had more fat than the female - the opposite to all other animals and humans. It was believed that fat contained supernatural potency and thus the fatter the animal, the more potent it was. When eland were killed - they were hunted on occasion - this supernatural potency was released and people could dance well and heal people. In order to heal, however, you had to become the animal of potency. This altered state of consciousness experience meant people felt themselves transform into animals and the part-human, part-animal small black creatures

painted at Tohlong II are almost certainly these therianthropes or part-animal human beings. The detail on the three-part arrows is also noteworthy.




In order to arrive at the origin of the renowned Basuto Pony it is essential to trace the origin, development and subsequent decline of what was known as the "Cape Horse", which formed the foundation stock on which the once famous Basuto breed was founded.




The history of the Cape Horse may be conveniently divided into three periods:-

a)    From the first importation in 1652 - 1811. Throughout this period practically all the animals imported were what has been described as oriental stock.

b)    From 1811 - 1850 high class Blood horses and Thoroughbreds were imported.

c)     From 1850 and particularly from 1870 - 1885, many inferior thoroughbreds were imported, which was one of the causes, amongst others described later, that brought about the decline of the Cape Horse.




Horses were first sent out to the Cape by the Dutch East India Company in 1652, but owing to bad weather they were landed at St. Helena and only reached the Cape in 1655. They were Java horses of a strong Persian and Arab strain. The Aborigines of the Cape saw horses for the first time in 1653, when four Java horses were landed after and extremely dangerous voyage.


In 1659 the Government agreed to Jan van Riebeck's request to send two horses from the East with every home-bound fleet. These were of the same stock as those previously imported in 1653 and 1655. In 1689 Simon van der Stel imported good stud horses direct from Persia, of which the farmers made good use. By this date horse breeding was firmly established, and we may claim for the Cape Horse an origin similar to that of the English Thoroughbred, viz:- mainly from the noblest strain of all warm blooded horses "the Libyan of North Africa" - through its Arab, Barb and Persian types. The animals were small but hardy and had excellent constitutions and temperaments.


In about the year 1778 several horses of Andalusian origin, a Barb and Arabian cross - were imported from South America. This was only another infusion of oriental blood from a different source; they were very good specimens.


The first eight stallions were imported from England in 1782, they were what was then known as "English Blood Horses" descendants of renowned oriental sires. In the same year five stud horses were imported from Boston, U.S.A.; they were derived from the Barb through the Andalusian horses of Spain, the English Blood Horse, Utrecht and early Dutch horses.


From 1795 - 1803 several excellent English stallions were imported and these brought improvement and development to horse breeding at the Cape. In 1807 some Spanish breeding horses were captured and land at the Cape. They were described as blue roans and red roans of medium height, broad chested and possessing great powers of endurance.


In 1808 a number of horses and mares, said to be of good Eastern and Spanish blood, were imported from the New England State of America. During the years 1811 - 1820 Lord Charles Somerset, the then Governor of the Cape, purchased in England, for the Cape, eighteen stallions and tow mares. The majority of these had lengthy pedigrees going back to the great oriental founders of the Thoroughbred. Sic died on the way out but many of the remainder and their progeny became famous. The colonists were so pleased with the Governor's excellent scheme of using the Thoroughbred to ennoble the Cape country-bred that the importation of good stallions continued and the decade 1820 -1830 saw many notable sires reach the shores of South Africa.


During the years 1840 - 1850 several stallions, which had stood at stud in England and are to-day mentioned in the pedigrees of famous winners, were imported, also several younger stallions and mares. Thus 1811 may be said to mark the beginning of the reign of the English Thoroughbred at the Cape which lasted for half a century, during which period the Cape Horse reached its zenith.

It is necessary here to impress the fact that up to 1811-1812 the Cape stock was almost entirely of oriental origin, and that the importations to the Cape from England prior to 1810, especially during 1770 -1790, included many of the sons and daughters, descendants of the first three great English sires bred from three great oriental sires viz:-



The blood of these sires and mares made it possible for the Arab stock of the Cape to reach its zenith under the patronage of Lord Charles Somerset and the great Hantam breeders. There is no doubt that the blood of these great progenitors of the Thoroughbred was possessed in a large measure by the horses that entered Basutoland in 1830 -1850. We like to mention these illustrious ancestors and the dates of the Thoroughbred, and through the Thoroughbred of other famed breeds such as the Saddler and the Trotter, U.S.A. and the Hackney because contemporaneously and from the same sources were created the Cape Horse and the Basuto Pony, whose achievements in trying campaigns as remounts, on race courses and polo grounds, proved their relationship and equality to the world's best light horse stock. From 1850 - 1860 the quality of Thoroughbreds imported was not quite as good as that of the former importations. From about 1860 a period of calamitous decline set in due to a number of causes, amongst which the principal were:-

a)    The farmers in their zeal for long pedigrees imported, particularly during the years 1870 - 1885, several hundred horses of poor type known subsequently as "blood weeds".

b)    Severe visitations of horse-sickness which depleted the ranks of the original magnificent foundation stock (1854 - 1870).

c)     The advent of Angora goat farming 1840, ostrich farming in 1860 and a rapid extension of the production of woolled sheep, had the effect of largely changing the system of farming to the detriment of horse breeding throughout the greater part of the settled area of South Africa.

d)    The opening of the Suez Canal (1868) resulted in a loss of trade - particularly the remount trade. This factor tended to depress the horse market, with the result that farmers had to reduce expenditure on horse breeding and turned to other lines of farming, as mentioned under (c).


The foregoing factors brought about great deterioration, and the Cape Horse never again reached the high, general standard that it attained in the years 1810 - 1870. Several good horses as well as the "blood weeds" were imported during this period, amongst which were eight very good Hackneys and one Norfolk Roadster landed in 1888, but these had little of no effect in stemming the decline that had set in. Efforts have since been made by successive governments, private individuals and companies, to improve the general stock of the country but lack of interest, unintelligent cross-breeding, heavy losses incurred during the Anglo Boer War, and later the arrival of the motor car and other factors, have, made the attainment of this object on a general scale extremely difficult. Having briefly recorded the ancestry of the Cape Horse it is now necessary to trace the connection between this type and what subsequently became known as the Basuto Pony.





For many decades the tract of land now known as Basutoland and the adjoining country now the Orange Free State, was sparsely inhabited by bushmen, and later more thickly populated by Suto-Chuana Bantu tribes from the north, east and west of Southern Africa. The comparative peace which these tribes had enjoyed for probably a couple of centuries came to an end when the Zulu invasions began early in 1822. It was during this period of invasions, wars and general trouble, which lasted for many years, that the tribes saw and procured horses for the first time, and it was the remnants of these tribes which were later gathered together by Moshoeshoe and welded into the Basuto Nation.


In 1825 the Bataung of Moletsane made a successful counter attack on a band of roaming Griquas who had come to raid them, and acquired, amongst other booty, a few horses, as it is recorded that in 1827 they captured much booty including horses from a band of Korannas who were in search of plunder.


In 1828 a band of Korannas, in an attempted attack on the stronghold of Chief Mohale in the Maseru district, was defeated, and Mohale captured and retained all their horses. About 1825, Moorosi and his people, the Baphuthi, with certain bushmen adherents, became vassals to Moshoeshoe. The Zulus had captured all Moorosi's cattle and destroyed his crops, and to replenish his herds he had for some years afterwards to make repeated raids into Kaffraria in order to acquire further cattle. His bushmen followers, in a raid about 1829, stole two horses from a farm near what is now the town of Dordrecht. One of these Moorosi presented to Moshoeshoe. This was the first horse owned by the great Chief, and history records the fact that, with little or no equipment and after many struggles, he learned to ride. After acquiring the art of managing and riding a horse he apparently lost little time in securing further equines, as in 1830 we hear of him going to see an old friend accompanied by twenty three young men on horseback.


In 1833 Moshoeshoe's eldest son received with delight his first gift horse from his father.About 1830 the aggressive Korannas, previously mentioned, made an attack on a Mophuthi named, Lipholo and on a Mosuto living on the site of what is now Masitise Mission Station in the Quthing district. Moorosi counter attacked, captured and brought back, amongst other plunder, sixteen horses. Shortly after the attack on Lipholo, just mentioned, a band of Korannas planned an attack on Chief Moorosi's stronghold - Thaba Bosiu. The chief hearing of this forestalled them and became the attacker, with such successthat he killed practically everyone and returned with much spoil including many horses.


After their encounter with the Bataung in 1827 the Korannas, who were now raiding many parts of the Suto-Chuana country, attacked the Zulu invaders, the Amangwane, near Clocolan Hlohloloane). The latter fought bravely until they saw a Koranna on horseback - the first they had seen - and they fled in abject terror. A similar misfortune overtook the Baphuting. They had, many years before, moved away from their homes in Wetsi's Hoek and after wandering long and far afield attacked the Bahlaping near Kuruman. After a time a mounted force of Griquas came to the aid of the almost conquered Bahlaping and the Maphuting, seeing this fearsome spectacle, fled. From the foregoing account it will be seen that the majority of the horses, procured by the tribes living in what is now Basutoland and the Free State up to the year 1835, were taken from the Griquas and Korannas in turn had obtained these by raids and thefts from the Cape Farmers (on the borders of the Orange River), aided by their allies, the bushmen, who had become expert thieves and raiders as they resented European farmers settling at their fountains, thus driving away the game. For these thefts and other reasons the bushmen were hunted in much the same manner as wild animals by the farmers.


At this point in the history of the Basuto Pony it is necessary to refer back to the history of the Cape Horse, from which it will be seen that up to 1811 the Cape Horse may, for practical purposes, be regarded as for purely oriental descent, and that the Thoroughbred importations from 1821 - 1835, for which Governor Somerset and private individuals were responsible, were splendid animals with a very large admixture of oriental blood. the foundation Basuto stock was, therefore, almost, if not entirely, purely oriental, and it is doubtful whether even the later introductions up to 1835 carried much thoroughbred blood, as it must have taken many years after Governor Somerset imported this Arab foundation Thoroughbred, for the blood of theses animals to have reached the horses taken from the Korannas and Griquas by the Basuto. It may, therefore, be fairly safely assumed that up to 1835 about 90% of oriental blood flowed in the veins of the Basuto Pony.



The Maphetla and Mapolane, two of the earliest tribes to inhabit South Basutoland - related to the Baphuthi who gave Moshoeshoe his first horse - suffered many and various disasters as a result of war and famine; and finally, towards the end of 1822, the survivors journeyed to the Cape Colony, as far south as Somerset East, for protection and to secure a livelihood by taking service with the farmers under the supervision of Sir Andries Stockenstroom. After some years they returned to Basutoland in 1836 with the stock they had earned, which it is said included a number of horses.


The Batsueneng, after a fierce battle with the Griquas, were slaughtered to such an extent that they ceased to exist as a corporate tribe like the Maphetla and Mapolane already mentioned. Most of the survivors went to work in the Cape Colony but returned to Basutoland in 1836 and 1837 with horses and other stock. In the early part of the nineteenth century the great Zulu Chief, Moselekatse, exiled from Zululand and subsequently the founder of the Matebele Nation, with the aid of his regiments (impis) over-ran and laid waste a great part of what is known as the Orange Free State. He attacked whoever opposed him, including later on the Boer Farmers. In a counter attack against the forces of Barend, Barend composed of Bergenaars, Griquas, Korannas, Barolong and Bahlaping in 1830 Moselekatse recaptured all stock etc, which had been taken from him and also secured many horses. This state of affairs naturally led to ever increasing trouble as the Boers, who had begun to appear in the country in 1835, captured many cattle form Moselakatse’s people, with the result that he attacked them twice in great force in 1836 on the banks of the Vaal. On these occasions the Boer farmers suffered many casualties, and Moselekatse captured horses and other spoils.


It is thought that many of these horses came into possession of the local tribes during this period, which was one of raids and counter raids between these tribes and Moselekatse before he departed for the North with his marauding impis. He also attacked Chief Moshoeshoe at Thaba Bosiu in 1831, but was worsted, and that great Chief, who was also a great Statesman, treated Moselekatse so generously on this occasion that he was never again molested by him. In addition to the attack on Thaba Bosiu just mentioned, the local tribes, many of whom were vassals of Moshoeshoe, had for some years been invaded and attacked, again and again, by the Zulus, Korannas, Griquas etc., and in 1835, to add to their difficulties, Boer farmers began to arrive amongst these much harassed people. At first these farmers came for short periods only, but later their visits became prolonged. They brought with them their flocks and herds which included numbers of horses. These newcomers, unlike the Zulus who were marauders and a passing phase, had come to stay. This occupation resulted in further wars, raids and counter raids, in which much stock, including horses, changed hands. Later on, after the Orange Free State had become finally occupied by these European emigrants from the Cape Colony, and particularly after the wars between the Europeans and Basuto ceased, the local people were, as is the case to-day, largely employed by the emigrants as farm labourers and were paid for their labour in stock. Many horses were acquired by the Basuto in this manner.


Owing to the more settled conditions now established, European livestock speculators came into the picture of the Basuto pony for the first time. These men, knowing even at this early date, that the Basuto, were a sporting race and consequently anxious to acquire as many good horses as possible and prepared to pay handsomely for them, obtained droves of horses which they took to Basutoland and exchanged for cattle. In this way large numbers of horses found their way into the Territory, amongst them many good stallions which it is thought were not always acquired in an honest manner.


The horses which entered Basutoland from 1835 to 1840, during the second period of the origin and history of these animals, were mostly of excellent oriental blood with possibly a slight infusion of Thoroughbred from the earlier Thoroughbred importations into the Cape. From 1840 to 1870, by fair or foul means, horses continued to find their way into Basutoland, and these later importations must have had a greater proportion of Thoroughbred blood in their veins than was the case of the 1835 to 1840 importations. But whatever the proportion of Thoroughbred in these later importations it could not, diffused as it was, have made a great deal of difference to the preponderating oriental blood already in the country.


By 1870 it is recorded that practically the whole Basuto nation was mounted. This fact, as will be shown in the third stage, is thought to be the most important in the history of the rise to fame of the Basuto Pony.



It is a peculiar point of interest in the history of Basutoland and its people that the unfortunate war of 1879, between the Allied Cape Colonial and Basuto troops against Chief Moorosi, who lived in the Quthing district, arose out of Mr. Hope’s judgement on Chief Moorosi’s son for the theft of some horses.


The year 1870, as previously mentioned, is regarded as the most important in the history of the Basuto Pony. Practically the whole Nation was mounted, and, for this reason, the tide turned from import to export. Mr. W.H. Surmon in his report dated 6th July 1885, mentions the fact that in 1875, when a census was taken, the horse population int he southern part of Thaba Bosiu district was 8,000 and that the numbers increased considerably during the succeeding 10 years. There are two reasons fro regarding the turning point from import to export as the most important in the history of the Basuto Pony. It will be remembered that in the history of the Cape Horse the year 1870 marked the beginning of the decline of those renowned and valuable animals, due to the importation and use of large numbers of :blood Weeds” and the other causes mentioned int he notes given earlier on the Cape Horse. Had Basutoland at that time not reached saturation point in imports. this detrimental blood would have entered Basutoland and caused a similar decline. This purely fortuitous coincidence of the importation of :blood weeds” to the Cape, and import saturation in Basutoland in the year 1870, cannot, therefore, be too strongly stressed, as it marked:-


a) Practically the cessation of import, which fact prevented the entrance of the “blood weed” stock.

b) The commencement of export, which fact brought the merits of the Basuto Pony to the notice of Europeans.


From 1870 onwards the Basuto Pony as a type or breed began to be known amongst Europeans, and as export grew, its fame spread throughout South Africa and finally, during the Anglo Boer War, throughout the Empire.


Another cause of the decline of the Basuto Pony, reported during this period, was intense jealousy amongst the people. A man it was said would often castrate his best colts rather than stand the risk of his neighbours deriving benefit from them as stallions. It is not thought, however, that this could have been a serious obstacle to improvement, otherwise the improvement and maintenance of the breed at a high standard in the earlier stages of horse breeding would have been impossible. It will thus be seen that the Basuto Pony was steadily rising to fame during the period 1870 to 1903, and that during the same period the fame of the Cape Horse was steadily declining. There is no doubt that the Basuto Pony, like the once famous Cape Horse, became a definite and well established type due to it’s origin. Its conformation, character, paces, action and high powers of endurance were typical of its Eastern ancestors. In the case of the Basuto Pony certain characteristics became accentuated due to the nature of the country in which it was bred and the manner in which it was handled by its owners.


Basutoland is the most mountainous and coldest part of South Africa. The Basuto are fast and fearless riders but may be described as poor horse masters: shelter and food other than that supplied by nature are seldom considered. A Basuto pony was and is galloped up and down precipitous mountains where any other horse and its rider would fear to proceed at a walk. This treatment, together with the climatic and topographical conditions, tended to increase and accentuate the inherited characteristics, viz:- the small six, endurance, etc of these animals, which were already fearless and surefooted of any known type of breed; in fact even the mountain bred mule, known the world over for surefootedness, can hardly be compared with these pinies, because the mule, unlike the horse, lacks courage and trust in its owner to face almost impassable conditions, viz:- rivers in flood, rock ledge trails etc.


The Basutho Pony, as previously stated, rose to the zenith of its fame during the Anglo Boer War (1900).



By Myrtle Karstel. National Museum, Bloemfontein.


The traditional usage of animal skin coverings has been transferred to the blanket. The Basotho wear the Blanket in all kinds of weather in Lesotho, this country of climatic extremes. It has been said by a Mosotho that you should always carry a blanket and a pocket knife with you for then “You can sleep and you can eat.”


The Basotho blanket is such a common sight in Lesotho that one tends to assume that it was a local invention. However, its beginnings can be traced with some accuracy to the contact between the Basotho and the Europeans during the nineteenth century. A sparse European presence existed in Lesotho as early as the 1800s. Afrikaner pastoralists from the south, who were looking for grazing as early as the 1920s penetrated up to the Caledon River valleyduring the droughts. From 1833 onwards Christian missionaries and European Traders settledin Lesotho. The missionaries and traders had some noticeable effects on the Basotho community. The moral code of the missionaries emphasised ‘being decently dressed’. As the Basotho’s clothing consisted of a variety of animal skin garments which were more scanty than the missionaries were used to, new converts were influenced to dress in a western way. Moshoeshoe 1 wore western clothing on a Sundays, but during the week he reverted to his kaross and skin garments. The traders exhibited their strange and exotic goods, which were tried and bought by the Basotho. The traders were soon trusted for advice and help. The very first blankets used by the Basotho were white, smeared with red ochre. Then there appeared on the market small, ‘five and a half feet square’ blankets made of shoddy or reconstituted yarn from old woollen coats and clothing. These blankets had wide stripes of yellow, cream, scarlet, blue and maroon on a grey background. Patterned blankets, manufactured on a box-loom, were next introduced to the Basotho. Experimentation by manufacturers on the dobby loom, producing variegated checks, was yet another development and brighter colours started to replace the drab shades of the earlier products.


“A great cloak of leopard skin, as supple as the finest cloth, was allowed to fall negligently about his waist, its folds covering his knees and feet. That Moshoeshoe was aware of the significance of clothing as a sign of status and prestige, is revealed by this description of Casalis, the French missionary. The Friend newspaper, in 1860, describes how a certain Mr. Howell presented a blanket as a gift to Moshoeshoe. This was “a handsome railway wrapper made of light blue pilot cloth, heavy and hairy”. Moshoeshoe was delighted with this gift and wore it over his shoulders ‘a la poncho’, in a way not far removed from the way traditional animal skin mantles were worn by the Basotho.


British political involvement, endeavouring to protect Lesotho from invasion from the Orange Free State, started in 1867. Also increased buying power of the Basotho after the discovery of diamonds in Kimberley in the 1870s, a change in dress fashions was noticeable .For Frasers Limited, who traded in Lesotho alongside other traders, Wormald & Walker, manufacturers of blankets in England, produced a patchwork blanket in the late 1880s using two Jacquard looms. The new design made the blanket such a status symbol that the quality of the materials had to be improved too.


Another breakthrough took place when the manufacturers felt that a still finer quality rug, known as an ‘Austrian blanket” was necessary. The Basotho took to this blanket so enthusiastically that in 1897 a deluxe model was produced, called the “Victoria” in honour of the Jubilee Year of Queen Victoria. This brand name became exclusive to Frasers Limited. Other blankets were manufactured like the ‘Kings’ blanket, the woman’s colourful shawl, the initiation blanket and the thick mountain rug, called the ‘Sandringham’. The well thought out name and motifs received their own tribal names or descriptions from the Basotho without the knowledge of the traders at first. By the twentieth century there were approximately seven blankets on the market with motif originating mostly in western paradigm.


There were other factors present that put pressure on the Basotho to look to other sources than animal skins for covering. Several Historians and writers refer to natural disasters, such as continual droughts and some exceptionally cold winters, as well as the rinderpest of 1897. These events depleted the wild and domestic animals of Lesotho and the disasters continued well into the twentieth century. The sudden population growth of the Basotho after European contact and protection also added to the pressure to look to alternatives for covering.


Most of the present day Basotho blankets conceived as ‘traditional’ have stayed unchanged for approximately 50 to 80 years and some even longer. The Basotho displayed a deep rooted attachment to certain blanket names and designs and to the upholding of symbols of status. Manufacturing of blankets locally in South Africa started only in the 1920s. The creation of the Frame Group in approximately 1954 by Philip Frame to protect and advance the selling of the Basotho blankets is also indicative of a popular and stable market among the Basothos.


Most Basotho remember the blanket as ‘growing up with’ and that it was totally integrated into the life of the Basotho. The blanket was ever present at home, on the road, in country shops an at meetings. It was worn by parents and grandparents alike. Some remember skin garments and karosses as still featuring prominently when they were young, especially among the older members of the family.


Unbeknown to the average Basotho, there were times of fluctuation and change as far as the acceptance of the blanket was concerned, for the most part measured by European standards of the day. For example, with the Prince of Wales visit to Lesotho in 1925 ‘those with blankets’ were not to go near the Prince. The order was KOBO MORAO!, meaning ‘blankets at the back!’. About this time missionaries also discouraged the wearing of blankets. Apparently the connotation of the kaross was carried over to the blanket and it did not appear ‘Christian’ enough. People wearing blankets were regarded as ‘heatherin’. Even during the British royal visit in 1947 wearers of blankets did not feature prominently on photographs.


A change occurred after Lesotho’s independence on 4 October 1966 and its internationalisation of nationhood. The blanket gained popularity although its use declined slightly due to increased urbanisation in the 1970s and 1980s. It was believed at that time that ‘the blanket belonged to the rural people’. The impact of the blanket on the miners was slightly different. It became such an important commodity in the life of a Basotho migrant labourer that he and his blanket would not be easily parted. In the late 1980s the popularity of the blanket took an upward swing; it was never to be ignored again. The impetus given to the blanket cult, especially during the past tow decades, came from the Baostho themselves. At present (1993) it is estimated that 230 000 blankets or more are still produced yearly, with a market that can still not be fully supplied.



Public usage


When Pope John Paul II visited Lesotho in 1988 ( Ketelo ea Morena Papa) a blanket gift was given to him, which is now in the Vatican in Rome.In 1989 the historical event of King Moshoeshoe II installing his heir, Prince Letsie III, emphasised the visibility of the blanket as ‘thousands of Basotho’ wearing their traditional blankets’ gathered to see this memorable event. The King and his procession were all dressed in western clothing with blankets over and around their shoulders. Today the Basotho cannot go without the blanket. At times it is expected of him to appear in a suit, but at other times it is imperative for him to appear in a blanket as well as his western clothing. The interest of the Queen of Lesotho in the blanket in the late 1980s was displayed when she gave input for designs and ideas to a certain manufacturer, resulting in positive discussions and a blanket designed by her and called Mamohato, meaning Queen.

Everyday / Utility Usage

The blanket is worn in all circumstances and in the most humble surroundings as well as in the most important places. Most Basotho keep a wardrobe of blankets, worn for utility or functional purposes, or their wearing depends on the nature of the occasion. All informants feel that appearing in a blanket adds gravity, elegance and a certain symbolism to the event.


When wearing a blanket a person should also walk slowly and graciously. When hard work is expected, the blanket is either discarded or doubled up and hung over one shoulder by men. Men also fasten the blanket on the right shoulder, leaving the right arm free for movement of action. Women fasten the blanket in the middle of the breast. This enables a woman to feed her baby or do domestic work.


All Basotho blankets have a high pure wool content, sometimes up to 90 percent, which keeps the body at an even temperature and is useful even in the heat of summer. During rain the wearer stays comparatively dry, as wool does not readily absorb water. It also does not become heavy or cumbersome from water retention, as do many artificial fibres. It is also fire- resistant, which is useful since open fires are still used on a wide scale by the Basotho. The Woollen Blanket is able to resist a lot of effects like fire, rain and water, and keeps its colour well”.


Traditionally women carry their babies on their backs, a useful way of caring for the young. For this task at least two shawls/blankets are used, one to fasten the child to the mother’s body and the other as a covering over the child and the shoulders of the woman. When performing tasks, the woman may drop the top shawl to her hips and tie it. When it is windy or cold, or during the heat of the day, the top shawl can be drawn up over the baby’s head, covering the mother’s shoulders. When a woman is resting next to the road an extra blanket or shawl around her hips can serve as a covering on the ground to sit on


Ritual Usage

The blanket worn by a person reveals a diversity of information to members of the community. The symbolism associated with the ‘warmth’ of the blanket is far-reaching and encompasses different practices. Eg. ‘Heat’ is associated with ‘fermentation’ like in beermaking or ‘fertilisation’. The young brides constantly wear a shawl wrapped around her hips and ‘must stay warm’ until the first child is conceived. At birth the child is also ritually wrapped in a special blanket. The blanket can later on be used to tie the baby to the mother’s back. It is also proper for a woman to cover her shoulders, especially in the presence of her father-in-law or on public occasions such as funerals and church gatherings. A husband usually presents his bride with a wedding blanket. At the birth of their first child he presents her with yet another blanket. A blanket may also form part of bohali, the gifts given to the bride’s parent as part of the agreement of marriage between the two families.


When a boy prepares for his initiation school, he is entitled to another blanket as proof that he has reached manhood. The wearing of this blanket, apart form its utility purpose, symbolises the emergence from the status of boyhood to that of manhood. Other memorable events in a man’s or woman’s life are also mediated by a blanket, for example the coronation of the king or the induction of a chief, herbalist or head woman. Also, when a person goes on a journey, a blanket is a suitable gift. The old custom of wrapping a corpse in a blanket was ‘to stay warm’ and is a ritual still meaningful today. The action of Queen Victoria in the 1860s of giving protection to Lesotho was apparently described by Moshoeshoe as ‘spreading her blanket’ over them.


Meanings not found in the old skin coverings, but ascribed to blankets in later usage. Blanket names like Sandringham, Victoria England or the Prince of Wales Crest are tangible remembrances to the Basotho of England’s involvement in their national and political life. After World War II, motifs such as aeroplanes and bombs appeared on blankets and became symbols of bravery, power and conquest for the Basotho. After the British royal visit to Lesotho in 1947 the crown appeared on blankets and reflects a certain touch of ‘royalty’ in the wearer. The acceptability of these blankets apparently illustrates a traditional love, admiration and adherence towards England although the specifics of this association are not always clear to the Basotho. The Poone (mealie) design, appearing on the Seanamarena and Sefate ranges of blanket implies fertility for both men and women. The cabbage leaf depicted on one of the Pitseng blankets is a sign of prosperity. The solid lines at both edges of all Basotho blankets are referred to by the trade as ‘wearing stripes’ and are usually worn vertically by the Basotho. It is believed that wearing these horizontally can stunt growth, development and wealth.



Design 1:  Mbalo Mattross

The way that this blanket entered the ranks of the Basotho blanket is unique. It could well be the oldest traditional Basotho blanket used in ritual. There is reason to believe that this type of blanket was part of the ‘slop chest’ from which sailing ships sold to sailors. An experience of an informant when visiting Canada some years ago serves to reinforce this deduction. He noticed a blanket similar to the Mbalo Mattross at Hudson Bay. A number of small stripes, usually in purple, were also visible at eh edge of these white woollen blankets, similar to the ‘weight lines’ shown on the Mbalo Mattross. These lines represented the value of the blanket in furs when trading. Sailors off the Natal coast could have traded with the Zulu people, swapping their blankets for other goods. An analysis of the name, as given by this informant and a few other informants, substantiates the fact that this blanket filtered through Zululand to Lesotho, but exactly how is not certain.


Mbalo seems to be a Zulu/Pondo word for ‘the kind/type of’. It could also mean ‘the writing/ mark of’ like on stones. Mattross could have been derived from the Afrikaans word matroos, meaning sailor. Thus the literal tranlslation could be ‘the type/mark of the sailor’. This blanket was widely accepted by the Basotho in the early days of the nineteenth century. The Xhosa and Pondo also used it on a limited scale for initiation purposes; therefore this is the only blanket nor exclusively Basotho. The Basotho used it for ceremonial burials, for example, to wrap the corpse of a king before putting him into his grave. As this was an expensive, pure woollen blanket it was used for the burials of the more will to do. The size of the blanket could have also played a major role in its utilisation. It is nearly the size of a double bed blanket, 200 x 215 cm and could cover a corpse with ease. The deceased are buried in coffins these days, but they are often still wrapped in a blanket , before being placed in the coffin, or if a coffin is not available, the blanket suffices. This blanket is off the market now. It is still highly regarded and is prized by those who are lucky enough to have obtained one before 1980.


Design 2:  Sandringham

This blanket is named after the Royal palace at Sandringham in England and the first was imported from Scotland. It was manufactured with loops, which were only cut afterwards, producing a thick and heavy blanket. The finish of this blanket reminded the Basotho of the inside of the stomach of a slaughtered lamb, and they express it in the words qibi mohodu konyane. Because of its warmth, it was worn especially in the snow-covered highlands of Lesotho and therefore became a geographical indicator for fellow Basotho, who called it the ‘mountain rug’. Stripes similar to those on the very first blankets on the market, were used and are referred to in the trade as the ‘basic Basotho design’. The general name for blankets in the early days was nomdakana, daka meaning line. The Basotho have a customary love for this design. This blanket is produced in three types with a solid single and multi-coloured stripe. The multi-coloured stripe is worn by women, while men wear only the single stripe. This blanket most probably dates back to before the turn of the twentieth century and is a treasured possession of many Basotho. It has been unobtainable since the early 1980s. Robertson/Victoria


Design 3:  England - Seanamarena

This blanket was the idea of the late Lesotho trader, C.H. Robertson, and was to be initially a blanket exclusively for the kind and chiefs. It dates back to before the turn of the twentieth century. The word Seanamarena literally means ‘to swear by the king’. The meaning as applied to the blanket seems to be obscure. Some informants give interpretations such as ‘where the chief buys’ (the best). Others say it is an ancient saying of the Basotho and that story telling used to be concluded by it. The chromatic one of the two designs on the market at present is the ‘traditional’ one. Later on the wives of the king and chiefs also wore this blanket. From the beginning the trade purposefully manufactured only a certain number per year, which increased people’s desire to possess such a blanket. It is reported that in the very early days stampeding, close to rioting, occurred at trading stores like Leribe to obtain this blanket. There is ample evidence that the wealthy, and even the not so wealthy at times, regardless of descent who desire more status, buy this blanket. This specific blanket name and design belonged to Robertson Limited, but Frasers Limited eventually succeeded in coming to an agreement with them to also trade the Seanamarena. This they did under the Victoria England label name. In addition they brought our a Poone design under the Seanamarena label name. Lately the Seanamarena has been noticed at initiation ceremonies for the sons of the affluent. This blanket has the most status of all the Basotho blankets. All informants become lyrical when hearing of or seeing the Seanamarena blanket. Since its inception manufacturing has never ceased.


Design 4:  Matlama Shawl

The forerunner of this shawl was the handwoven Italian imported Lake Shawl sold in the early days of Lesotho. It had a similar pattern on all four borders as the Matlama shawl, as well as fringes. The Matlama shawl, manufactured in South Africa after the 1920s, was machine
made and therefore had the traditional motifs on only two sides of the borders. It is a colourful and prestigious shawl for women. The fringes appeal to women. The name Matlama, which was given to it at a later stage, means to fasten/tighten very much’. According to Walton (1958) this refers to the way the tassle was tied to the fringe although other meanings are not ruled out. This is the only traditional blanket/shawl especially for women and it is widespread in its use, expressing different symbolism in several different rituals. For example, the Matlama shawl is presented by some people as a wedding gift. All other blankets on the market are worn by men and women alike. Men have been seen wearing the Matlama shawl, some with the fringes trimmed, but they usually only wear the brown or the fawn, not the grey which is the most prestigious.


Design 5:  Pitseng Moholobela

The meaning of the name of this blanket is obscure. According to informants it is an old saying which a person after traveling a long journey on foot or on horseback says: “Moholobela woa di thota” (I am from the desert), implying ‘after this journey I am not sure which direction I am going’. This blanket is very traditional as it was used from its inception for the Lebollo, which is the initiation ceremony for Basotho boys. Apparently there was no special blanket for the initiation of girls, although a blanket was also required. This blanket is very thick. There is a red and a blue blanket on the market, of which the red blanket is the more popular. The Moholobela blanket has the crocodile on its label, but not in its motifs. The crocodile is the totem of the royal kwena tribe, and also a national emblem of Lesotho.After the 1950s this blanket was manufactured in the Pitso blanket quality which still has an above 80 per cent wool content. In the 1960s, when wool became more expensive, it was manufactured in the Pitseng blanket quality, with a 25 percent wool content, and was more reasonably priced. This blanket has no other social significance or special status. Although temporarily off the market, it will most probably be marketed again, because of the important part it plays in the social life of the people.


Design 6:  Victoria England Skin Pattern (Leopard skin) 

This blanket resembles in use and looks like the traditional leopard skin kaross, which symbolised royalty, strength, courage (bravery), victory and wisdom. Like the kaross, this blanket was, by and large, reserved for those of royal descent. The Victoria England brand name under which this blanket is manufactured has always been prestigious since the first Victoria blanket came on the market in 1897. The brand name has become a tradition in itself, but also draws a certain emotional reaction from the Basotho. Customers still ask for the ‘Victoria’ with great enthusiasm. One the other hand, the use of the leopard kaross is one of the oldest traditions known to the Basotho. Therefore this blanket has a double portion of tradition and prestige.


Apparently the connotations of the leopard markings have lately both widened and deepened and the blanket appears to have lost some of the exclusiveness traditionally attached to it. It seems that the Basotho perhaps attach more meanings to the leopard markings and design than before, since it is extremely popular with all Basotho. Furthermore, it seems to convey a special meaning at ceremonies of transition, as it is apparently equally popular at, for instance, the initiation of a new herbalist or the inauguration of the successor to the throne, or of people to other important positions. Young Basotho ask for ‘Tiger’ nowadays, which creates the impression that initiation ceremonies may be calling for this design. Basotho warriors were fond of the leopard skin, because of its obvious connotations of courage and victory. The affinity the Basotho feel with the animal kingdom on the whole, could also have added to the popularity of this design. There is one interesting exception to the popularity of the leopard marking; the people living in the mountains do not wear the leopard markings motif. The reason could be that they fear to be mistaken for an animal by other animals. One of the latest brands on the market is the Sesecha, meaning ‘brand new’.Pitseng ‘Armband of the chiefs’


Design 7:  Thapa ea Seeiso

The original blanket was black with thin white stripes. It was traditionally worn at funerals and was called Thapa ea Seeiso meaning the ‘armband of the chiefs’/ Seeiso is actually the surname of the royal family. This blanket implies customary respect, not only for the bereaved and the dead, but also intertwined with the surname of royalty. This concept may be only understandable to the Basotho themselves. It could have something to do with the fact that deceased royalty are perceived as the spiritual forefathers of the whole nation.


Design 8:  Victoria England Crest

The Crest motif on blankets appeared after the visit of the Prince of Wales to Lesotho in 1925, which made a profound impression on the people. Customers refer to this blanket as lesiba, meaning ‘ feathers’, when buying it. Any blanket with the label name ‘Victoria England’ is ‘traditional’ because of the obvious association with Queen Victoria of England who ‘spread her blanket over the Basotho during a time of turbulence and danger of was between the Basotho and the Orange Free State. This resulted in the Lesotho becoming a British sovereignty in 1868. The Victoria England was eventually manufactured in seven different designs.


Design 9:  Magician ‘Monkeynut’

This type of blanket originally came out in the names Magician, Triumph and Magnet. Manufactured in England and of a high quality, it had a very soft finish. This did not escape the attention of the Basotho. They refer to this finish as Serope, meaning ‘as soft as a pregnant woman’s thigh. This type of blanket is traditionally given by a husband to his wife on the birth of their first child. The name Magnet, changed on the Basotho tongue to the word ‘Monkeynut’.


Design 10:  Setsoto

The word Setsoto means ‘to marvel at’, but is apparently an ancient word as most informants found it difficult to comprehend the meaning. Because of its finish, it was a popular blanket for a husband to give to his wife on the birth of their first child. The design is referred to in the trade as the ‘scorpion’. It is an extraordinary thick, soft and warm blanket. The Basotho, giving their own impressions according to their physical experience of this blanket, make this remark: “Seeia ho butswe,” implying ‘ the door is open’. In actual fact they mean ‘in spite of an open door, you will not feel the cold!’


General information

The solid strip at both edges of Basotho blankets was apparently a mistake of a factory worker in the earlier days, after which the Basotho preferred a blanket with this stripe and the manufacturers had to toe the line. “Bochaba ba Mosotho ke kobo” meaning that the blanket if the binding force of the Basotho (literally: ‘The nationality of the Mosotho is the blanket’)


By Justinus Sechefo Preface


The following is but a meagre account of the many superstitions, beliefs, customs and practices still common in the different parts of Basutoland. To enumerate them all would be impossible for this would require the help of many of the now unavailable grey heads to call them back to memory; since through the coming of the white man, the belief in Christianity, neglect and disuse, they are almost forgotten or even abused, while to the present generation many of the superstitions are entirely unknown.


However the in born spirit, traditions, influences and keen interest aroused by listening attentively to folk tales, fables, ghost and witchcraft stories told by grand mothers to their grandchildren at bed time in the hut; and also other peculiar talks among the men at home or in the "khotla" in the evenings about these beliefs and customs; all these I say must naturally have implanted in the minds of young listeners, deep and not to be shaken impressions about these customs and beliefs.In those days to have doubted the integrity of charms, the binding necessity of certain incisions, the magical powers of the "baloi" evil doers, witches and those of ghosts etc. would have deemed worse than insanity itself.


Poetical and rhymed amusing songs were sung, nursery tales repeated about these beliefs at the hearth by night, and fables were told at bed time by old grannies to their grandchildren, who in every case slept at their houses, in order to shun the abusive slander "ho hloba khoale" to pluck the partridge recklessly or in ordinary. "Do not pamper your children". Superstitions, fables and nursery tales were then and there related to the little ones. However it must be remembered that fables were not too be narrated during the day time, but only at night, these being a strong belief that a mysterious horn would happen too grow on the head of the person who encounted fables during the day time.



Since death was considered so terrible an occurrence in all localities, it would be out of the question to classify the many inconvenient superstitions about it. In those olden times the "leqhofa" the hut of the dead man, especially one in which an aged person died, who had no family, was left unoccupied, its entrance blocked up either with stones or bundles of grass. Kraals in which such deaths occurred were deserted and the spots no longer held fit for habitation.

Surprising or sudden deaths, such as caused by the striking of lightning etc. were incidents of great shock. Witch doctors were urgently sought for, and divining bones thrown down by them to reveal the mournful secrets. Death reports were announced to relatives at night. Children upon their inquiring as to the whereabouts of such and such a newly deceased, were told, "ofaletse" he has emigrated, and not "o shoele" he is dead, which was a vulgar as well as a wrong saying.

It was also improper especially during the term of mourning to pronounce the name of the deceased, but he should be addressed "the late so and so".In olden times there was no night watch over the corpse as is done today, since as far as possible the corpse was buried during the night of the day of death.

Funerals were nocturnal performances, held only by grown ups at dead of night. In many cases the young were not allowed to see the dead body, neither to attend the funeral.



"A very old man who would not die", but was a nuisance and a burden to the family, was done away with. He would be placed at the entrance of the cattle kraal, so that the cattle getting inside the kraal for the night would trample him to death and then he would be picked up to be buried quietly.



On no account should the grave dug out for the dead remain open during the night. The corpse must necessarily be buried on the same day the grave was dug, that is on the day of death. But in the case of great stress or perplexity impeding the burial, the grave should be watched by men throughout the night to prevent the "baloi" (evil doers) from approaching it.

Graves of elders and owners of cattle were dug out in their cattle kraals since of necessity the rich should not be separated from their cattle.. The stones of the kraal were removed for sufficient space for the grave, and the kraal was built up again after the burial. The grave itself was nothing more than a round hole, a few feet deep, since there were no spades for digging, but only small iron rods called “kepa” used for digging medicines or clumsy blindly pointed sticks made from hard wood of the wild olive tree. The body was not laid stretched out in the graves, but was buried in a sitting position.


Visible graves, outside the village, were as far as possible avoided so as not to frighten people. In the case of those who had no reason to be buried in respectable graves in their cattle kraals and in the case of strangers, graves were dug outside the village. These unfortunate places were dreaded spots. People should not sit nor stand upon the heap of a grave. A person who happened unconsciously to do so, should have his or her feet passed slightly over a brisk fire of grass to scorch off the misfortune.


In those primitive days of feudal times, even in days of leisure and peace, men and boys did not sit down heavily on the ground. They always “satup” even in the “Khotla” while eating, so as to be able to leap up instantly at any call of alarm.


The dead body for interment was wound up in an ox skin, bound with ropes of the “moli grass” and placed “sitting up” in the grave, sop as to be able to rise up instantly on the day when it would be summoned to do so.


Under no circumstances should the corpse be buried lying stretched out in the grave. The corpse was gently lowered down into the grave and supported on all sides with the ground dug out to keep it firmly “sitting up”.


A few grains of the seeds of the “mabele”, occasionally maize, sugar cane, pumpkin seeds and a tuft of ordinary doog grass twisted into a tiny ring were thrown beside the body in the grave. His or her snuff box, if any, was also placed at the side of the body.


The corpse was placed sitting up in such a way as to half face the east, so that the rising sun might slightly cast its rays on the corpse’s right cheek. Some of the binding ropes about the head were gently cut through with a knife so that the covering of the face could be slightly opened to prevent suffocation. The ground was then thrown in as far as the level of the head. Lastly a small flat stone was placed directly above the centre of the head and the grave was filled up with sand.


In each case the ground dug out of the grave should all be brought back to fill it up again, so that none of it remained scattered about. The surroundings should be swept clean and all particles of earth remaining placed on the newly covered grave. However, should it happen that much of the ground remained, it was carefully removed and scattered thinly over the grass at some distance from the grave so as to prevent evil doers from taking any of it to do mischief over the corpse.


A mound of stones was built over the grave and a higher stone planted at the top end to mark the head side. In certain cases the dogs would smell out the putrified body which was not too deep in the ground and would scratch at the grave. In these cases it was necessary to crush the bitter roots of the “leshokhoa” plant, which were dipped in water and sprinkled over the grave, or placed in pans “mangetana”, around the grave.


An unfortunate man who died stretched out without people to help him to close his mouth and eyelids, or fold his arms and legs, had the stiff muscles at the back of the knee joint gently cut through with a knife, so as to allow the body to be easily positioned sitting up in the grave.

Now in modern times, since the heir is the first to let flow his blood at all incision ceremonies in the family, it is also hiss privilege to be the first to throw a handful or spadeful of soil into the grave. The rest of the family, beginning with the eldest, follows after him, after which everyone can then take part in filling up the grave.


The custom of the olden times was that the person who placed the corpse into the grave had to be purified or compensated as explained later. At the same time, this showed the public the lineage and succession of the family in case of any dispute afterwards.


An imposter, “ho ja metlakana”, who falsely claimed and took upon himself this exceptional privilage which did not lawfully belong to him, would be condemned by the ancestral gods. Invariably such a man became stupid, dull or even insane. The pan that bore the seeds in the grave was place above the grave.



Embryos are buried in old broken earthen pots. The smallest may even be placed in an old horn of an ox and then buried. Only women , who have acted as midwives during the confinement may perform the burial, which takes place in the early hours of the morning or about nightfall. The grave or hole is dug out by the woman on an ash hill outside the premises. A man, if needed, may help dig out the hole, but cannot attend the burial.




This bird, “masianoke”, the Heron or Hamerkop, seems closely connected with lightning.  When the “Masianoke” alights in the village, it announces lightning in it. This bird should in no way be killed, nor should it’s nest be touched or disturbed.



This bird, “Koho-ea-Lira” or Dikkop, screeching near the village forewarns of the the same evils, therefore, it rouses the apprehensions and anxieties of all villagers.


The “lephaka-tlali” is a spot seen on grass in the fields that has supposedly been scorched by lightning. Such a spot used to be dreaded and someone unconsciously passing over it, should when noticing it, have his or her feet passed over a flame of fire on the grass to escape misfortune.


The “Mokhotla”, or black ibis bird, possess exceptional and wonderful charms. To obtain these from it, a device is used. A snare is laid in the nest of the bird to catch it’s young ones. When one is caught it should neither be killed nor removed from it’s snare, but left securely ensnared within it’s strings. The mother bird when returning home and finding her young one ensnared in this manner, places a drug on the snare, which will cause the strings to open. In this way she releases the captured one. The famous drug found on the snare should be removed and used as a medicinal charm. However, should one on the following morning find the drug on the snare and the captured bird still ensnared, he must take the drug away, leaving the little bird ensnared and continue to do so every morning, until at least he has found it gone and a fresh drug on his snare. This particular drug is the true one to be preserved.



The birth announcement of the first-born child to its father is formal. A male neighbour goes to the place where the father of the child happens to be and by standing behind him unnoticed strikes him with a stick in his hand saying: “We are given a son!” In the case of a female child, a woman in the same way pours a calabash of water over his head saying: “The birth of a girl!”.


This shock and excitement changes into joy itself. The first-born boy is the property of the grand-parents. It has to be weaned by a ceremony performed by the grand-father, generally after the of two or even three years suckling, during which period there are no sexual relations between the young couples.


Such actions spoil the child, who at that time continues to suckle congealed milk, caused by pregnancy. The “senofu” or “spoiled child” suffers from chronic constipation, caused by the mild and very often dies.


So as to prevent an infant from afterwards becoming a rogue or a thief, it must be protected against the least rain drops for the space of two or three months after birth. Then on one fine day, when there will be a nice shower of rain, the infant is taken out and gently laid down on the ground in the reed closure in front of the house. Here pouring rain will freely spatter over it for a few moments. The frightened infant will scream bitterly. The family all shout out as if mocking at it, saying: “Ah! Behold the thief, the thief, the thief!” Suddenly it is picked up, wiped, caressed and taken to the house.


A young child ready to be given solid food, should be given it by a chosen man known to be of a good temper and morals. He gives it a slice of meat, which the child sucks eagerly as if it were sucking into itself the good qualities of the man. In the olden times, it was customary that a good respectable herd boy should exclusively do the milking of the cows for the infants.


All adults, men and women, with the exception of the aged and younger boys and girls are forbidden, for the space of two or three months after the confinement of a woman, to enter into her premises, since their “bad conduct and trampling everywhere”, they are apt to cause evil to the infant, “ho hata ngoana”.