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Lesotho Country Report

Country Risk Level

Medium

Overview

Executive Summary

Thomas Thabane stepped down as prime minister in May 2020, allowing for a new coalition government to take over. The fact that Thabane still faces charges, alongside his current wife, over the murder of his ex-wife means that he will likely try to use what little remaining influence he has in the ruling ABC to frustrate policy-making with the intention of forcing the party negotiate a deal that would protect him from prosecution for the murder. The ABC is, however, very unlikely to agree to this, and thus a sustained period of policy instability is likely to prevail in the country over the coming 12 months.The involvement of members of the Thabane family in lucrative diamond mining deals means that, since his departure from office, there is likely to be increased focus on the legality of many contracts in the sector. There is an elevated risk of review of contracts in the diamond sector, with some of these likely leading to cancellationIHS Markit notes an increasing risk of corruption for companies dealing with Lesotho's public sector, with Lesotho's government allegedly enacting policies to further the private commercial interests of people with close ties to the ruling ABC. We forecast Lesotho's economic growth at a moderate 1.0% in 2019 and 1.1% in 2020. Economic growth is limited by political instability and a civil service wage bill that accounts for 50% of the national budget, which complicates the implementation of much-needed economic reforms, including the streamlining of the civil service. A further economic dampener stems from slower growth in Lesotho's largest Common Monetary Area partner, South Africa, which takes a large proportion of Lesotho's exports.

Operational Outlook

Lesotho has adequate infrastructural links, especially with its larger neighbour South Africa. Lesotho's proximity to South Africa and eligibility for various preferential trade agreements has attracted investors interested in exporting locally produced goods to larger markets without high tariffs. However, the recurring political instability is undermining Lesotho's eligibility for the US African Growth and Opportunity Act preferential trade scheme. IHS Markit assesses that corruption risks in Lesotho have recently increased, with influential businesspeople with political links allegedly able to gain influence over Lesotho's policymaking agenda, soliciting trade embargoes on certain goods to profit personally.

Terrorism

No major organised non-state armed groups are active in Lesotho. Lesotho has suffered intermittent incidents of political violence, including alleged coup attempts in 2014 and, more recently, gun attacks against political and security figures, such as the army chief in September 2017. Political assassination attempts are likely to continue as the government pursues investigations into such killings and reforms of the security forces, exacerbated by the withdrawal of an SADC military force in November 2018.

Crime

Crime is rising, including crime at knifepoint, armed robberies, break-ins, and car-jackings. One incident in September 2010 saw a 24-year-old US national, who was in the country as a Peace Corps volunteer, shot dead in an apparent robbery attempt in Maseru. Crimes such as stock theft have also led to deaths in the border region. Community policing forums have been established by South Africa and Lesotho to combat cross-border crime, which also includes vehicle theft and smuggling of goods such as drugs and weapons. As elsewhere in the region, the availability of small arms is a problem across the Lesotho-South Africa frontier. Crime hotspots include Mafateng, Leribe, and the capital, Maseru.

War Risks

Lesotho, which is surrounded by South Africa, does not face an external threat of war. However, recurrent political instability has drawn intervention from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) led by South Africa, which in September 2017 decided to deploy a battalion-strong contingent force following the assassination of the army chief. The SADC is heavily involved in instigating a national reform process for Lesotho's legislature and security apparatus, but an SADC deployment left Lesotho in November 2018, which increases the likelihood of fighting between rival military factions.

Social Stability

High

Demonstrations organised by workers and civil society groups over any further delays in governance reforms, as took place in Maseru in July, are likely during 2019 and 2020. Workers are also likely to stage protests in Maseru over the next year, similar to the protests in June by several thousand farmers over having to sell wool and mohair to a Chinese broker and by police staff for salary increases.

Health Risk

Vaccinations required to enter the country

Proof of vaccination against yellow fever is required for travelers over nine months and for travelers who have been in transit >12 hours in an airport located in a country with risk of yellow fever transmission.

Routine Vaccinations

Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.

Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.

Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).

Other Vaccinations

Typhoid Fever: If your travels take you to regions with poor sanitary conditions (for children two years old and up).

Rabies: For prolonged stays in an isolated region (for children from when they can walk).

For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.

Practical Information

Climate

Lesotho's climate is tropical and the country experiences two seasons, a dry season that lasts from May until September and a rainy season from October until April. In the winter (July-August), temperatures fall significantly as elevations increase and snow is relatively common. In the summer, days are pleasant but nights are often cool. Floods are common during the rainy season and in the winter months.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +266
Police: 123
Fire Dept.: 122
Ambulance: 121

Electricity

Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

Risk Level
Critical High Medium Low Minimal