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  • NRL Makaleng


The South Sotho culture, or Basotho as they are also known, is another one of our many cultural groups that roams South Africa and is next on our list of what makes this beautiful country great and diverse. They reside in present day Lesotho. They identify themselves through the use of their clan names which specify the ancestral origins. The names of these clans are the Bataung, Basia, Bafokeng, Makgolokwe and Bakuena et al. The royal family of Lesotho is largely made up of Bakuena.


Basotho origins trace back to the pre-historic age and are said to originate from Southern Africa. The Basotho made their way down as various tribes settled in different parts of the country. Some groups settled in the West, while others settled in the East and further South. Today these diverse groups are respectively known as the Batswana, BaPedi and Basotho tribes. Up until 1822, the clans lived in peace before they were invaded by Nguni fugitives who had fled from Natal. This led to a period of political unrest where tribes were divided and spread across different lands. The Tlokoa tribe followed the Manthaisi, and other tribes followed the Sebetoane. These tribes suffered great losses under the attacks of armies led by Shaka and Mzilikazi. Numerous tribes followed Moshoeshoe and headed further South into the country, seeking refuge at the unconquerable Thaba-Bosiu. Moshoeshoe accepted all those who had survived the attacks and was able to build the Basotho nation as we know it today.


The Basotho people combine modern and traditional ways. Despite increasing urbanisation and the growth of modern institutions, many Sotho speakers are still interested in building a rural homestead and maintaining traditional institutions. They also remain loyal to the chieftaincy system. Institutions such as the initiation schools, which preserve traditional values, are still significant but are changing in structure. Urban life in Lesotho is a blend of traditional and Western culture. They even have urban villages that tourists can explore and experience traditional life in Lesotho! Village life focuses largely on fields, the chief’s court, the kraals, school, church and the initiation lodge. Circumcision is an integral part of ritualised ceremonies that trains boys to take their place as full members of the family, clan and Nation. Many young boys spend a large part of their lives as herdsmen, while women and young girls do much of the hard work in the fields. Because of the sharp variations in climate, both men and women wear blankets, often multicoloured, which they use as cloaks. Men and women also wear the typical Sotho hat, which is woven from reeds into cone-like shapes and has a decorative topknot. Village life is dominated by basic agricultural tasks, with heavy responsibilities falling on the women. Craftwork is still practised in the villages and includes pottery, grass weaving, which we see with the traditional Sotho hats and the painting of detailed decorations on the walls of houses.


The Basotho diet consists of a variety of foods such as maize, melons, pumpkins, peas, beans and ground nuts. The main meats, which came from them domesticating their animals, are sheep, goat, fowl and cattle, cattle being the main and most sought after. Seasonal wild fruits are also included in their diet. During traditional ceremonies, traditional alcohol known as jwala is consumed and plays an important role in the Basotho culture. A popular meat dish is the slow cooked oxtail stew, which is served with dumplings, mixed vegetables and beetroot salad. The steamed dumplings are made with fermented maize meal and is known as leqebekoane. Then there is borotho, which is a traditional African bread originating from Lesotho. It is made with a combination of wholemeal flour, white flour, sugar, salt, yeast, and lukewarm water. It is usually served with barbecued meat, stews or different fruit jams. Butha-buthe is a healthy and nutritious soup which is made with spinach and tangerine as the main ingredients. In order to prepare it, split peas are added to the broth, which is then combined with onions, rice flour, turmeric, spinach, and coriander. Before serving, butha-buthe is typically topped with a dollop of yoghurt. Lastly, a favourite dessert amongst the Basotho is Makoenva, which is a fritter and is made with a combination of flour, sugar, salt, yeast, water, vegetable oil, raisins, and cinnamon. The fritters are rolled in cinnamon and sugar while still hot and served with a warm cup of tea on the side.


Sesotho, which is spoken by the Basotho people, is one of South Africa’s 11 official languages and is also primarily the official language of Lesotho as it is spoken widely. It is closely related to two other languages in the Sotho group, namely Setswana and Northern Sotho. Here are some common phrases to use when speaking in Sesotho:

Hello: Dumela

How are you?: O phela jwang?

Goodbye: Sala hantle

Thank you: ke a leboha

Please: ke a kopa

Yes: E

No: tjhe

I hope you have enjoyed reading and learning a bit about South Sotho culture. If you are planning a trip to Cape Town, please feel free to book a free Concierge session with WanderfullySo to make your trip easy and enjoyable. If you would like to visit but cannot leave your city or country for whatever reason, you can contact us for a customised virtual tour of the Mother City, meaning you can tour Cape Town from anywhere in the world!


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