Lesotho - Politics, government, and taxation

Khoisan-speaking hunter-gatherers first settled this region 10,000 years ago. They were overwhelmed in the 16th century by sedentary farmers who evolved into the Sotho nation of today. By the mid-19th century internecine (struggle within a nation) conflict, competition from Boer trekkers for the Cape Colony, and British intervention finally resulted in Basutoland—a British Protectorate that lasted from 1871 until independence in 1966.

Today, Lesotho is a multi-party constitutional monarchy. There is a bicameral National Assembly composed of a lower house of directly elected representatives, and an Upper House (Senate) comprised of 22 non-elected principal chiefs and 11 other members appointed by the king. The legal system is modeled after English common law and Roman-Dutch law. The High Court and Court of Appeal exert judicial review of legislation.

During the 1970s, discord over apartheid in South Africa destabilized all of southern Africa. The conservative South African regime accused Lesotho of accepting refugees and harboring African National Congress operatives. South African troops attacked Maseru in 1982. About 4 years later their border blockades severed the kingdom from the outside world. A pro-South African military faction within Lesotho reacted by removing Chief Jonathan and establishing military rule. The king became a figurative head of state.

In 1993, Lesotho returned to democracy after 23 years of authoritarian rule. The current head of state is King Letsie III, and the head of government is Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisil. The Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), Basotho Congress Party (BCP), Basotho National Party (BNP), and Maramatlou Freedom Party (MFP) are the largest of 12 to 15 political parties. The political system remains very fragile and prone to disruption. The last general election on May 1998, was disputed and triggered civil tension that is still present. An Interim Political Authority will oversee the next elections.

The government consumes 21.5 percent of the GDP. The top income tax rate is 35 percent, and the average taxpayer pays a 25 percent marginal tax rate. The top corporate tax rate is 35 percent.

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