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Mmuso wa Lesotho

Last modified: 2006-01-07 by bruce berry
Keywords: lesotho | shield and spears |
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    [Lesotho][Variant]2:3~  image by Željko Heimer, 7 Apr 2002

    Other Lesotho pages:

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    History of the flag

    Following a military coup which deposed the ruling Basotho National Party (BNP) government which had led the country since independence, a new flag was adopted on 17 January 1987. It is believed that the old flag was scrapped because it was identified too closely with the BNP and incorporated its colours of red, white, blue and green.

    Lesotho's current flag was adopted on January 20, 1987 after a military coup in which the military replaced the governing Basotho National Party. That's why the shield and spears are on there; they signify the importance of defence.
    Steve Kramer and Bruce Berry, 2 May 1996

    Construction sheet

    [Lesotho - flag construction sheet][Variant]2:3~ image by Željko Heimer, 7 Apr 2002

    I've just been looking at the construction sheet for the Lesotho flag as shown on the FOTW website. It shows that the central axis of the emblem is 2/30 of the way across the flag from hoist to fly. The details written below indicate that this should be the much more probable figure of 1/5 (that is, 6/30). Also, if - as suggested by Željko - the blue and green parts of the flag are of equal area, then the size of the green triangle is a little over 21 units along the length of the flag (three times the square root of 50) by a little over 14 units up the width (twice the square root of 50). Not - as Željko calculated - 3/4 the width of the lower triangle of the flag.
    The explanation is a little tricky - the ratio of sides is 2:3.
    The area of a triangle is base x height divided by 2. That is A = bh/2
    The entire lower triangle (green & blue) has area 30 x 20 / 2 = 300 units.
    The green alone therefore should have area of 150 units.
    We want a green triangle with bh/2 = 150. We know that the base is 3/2 the size of the height (the ratio of the flag). Therefore, with a little algebra we need to find 3x.2x/2 = 150, where x is 1/3 of the triangle's length and also 1/2 of its width.
    3x.2x = 6x.x, so 6x.x/2 = 150.
    Dividing both sides by 6/2, we find that x.x = 50.
    If  x squared is 50, x is a little over 7.
    The sides of the green triangle are therefore three times a little over 7 by twice a little over seven, or - to be a little more precise: 21.213 x 14.142 units.
    James Dignan
    , 31 Aug 2003.

    I am afraid that the diagram we have on FOTW is not quite accurate.  According to official figures published in Issue No 2 of the Lesotho Government Gazette Extraordinary Vol XXXIII dated 15 January 1987, the flag is given as 200 x 300 units, the width of the blue stripe as 64 units measured on the vertical, the emblem as being contained within an imaginary rectangle of 116 units high x 90 units wide and set 15 units from the hoist and the top of the flag.
    Christopher Southworth, 31 Aug 2003

    I can't argue against this - 1/5 is indeed 6/30 and not 2/30 as I indicated it on the gif for some reason. I believe that I have indicated that width of the blue stripe is approximately 1/4 of the hoist size, as width is measured perpendicular to the stripe, not along the hoist - so it would not yield 3/4 for the green! See the sheet how the 1/4 is measured (i.e. see line indicated ~5).  I am not going though the procedure in detail, but at first glance it does seem reasonable, so it is probably right. Now, if you indicate what would be the approximate length of the blue edges, I could make a sheet that makes a bit more sense. (The same procedure with a just bit more maths would provide exact number of the width of the blue stripe, and would confirm my "estimate" to 5). 
    Željko Heimer, 31 Aug 2003

    I misunderstood you to mean that the blue would have taken up 1/4 of the width of the flag. Still, the 2 for the distance to the emblem is completely wrong (and would be impossible to construct). The blue edges would be: along the length, 8.787; along the width 5.858; diagonally against the white, 36.056; diagonally against the green, 25.495.
    James Dignan, 31 Aug 2003

    Flag Description

    According to the Lesotho Government Gazette Extraordinary of 15 January 1987, the new national flag is a rectangular tricolor in proportion three by two, per bend reversed, white, blue and green, the white occupying half the surface area of the flag and charged, with the centre line one fifth of the distance from the hoist with an assegai and knobkerrie in saltire, surmounted of a traditional Basotho shield with plumed spine, all in light brown; the blue and green each occupying half the remaining surface area of the flag.
    The colors of the new flag represent the three elements of the national motto: white for peace; blue for rain and green for prosperity. It is for this reason that the blue and green stripes are not separated even though when viewed from a distance they merge together.
    Steve Kramer and Bruce Berry, 2 May 1996

    National Flag. CSW/--- 2:3
    Tricolour of white blue green divided in rising diagonal and with light brown emblem in canton.
    The flag is divided along diagonal in upper white part, while the lowe fly triangle is divided in blue and green parallel to the diagonal dividing it in two equal areas. With the  flag ovarall ratio 2:3, this would mean that the blue stripe width would be 1/4 of the hoist size. (at least as I figured it out, I would appreciate if some would check that out, and possibly provide decent
    mathematical explanation).
    The emblem size is not quite defined, but the vertical axis is to be along line 1/5 of the flag length from the hoist.
    Source: Album 2000.
    Željko Heimer, 7 Apr 2002

    The Lesotho Flag is based on the traditional motto of the Lesotho Nation: Khotso  (Peace); Pula (Rain); Nala (Prosperity); It was promulgated through the National Flag Order No. 1 of 1987, and hoisted for the first time on January 20, 1987.
    White occupies the top triangular half with diagonal traversing from left bottom corner adjoining the hoist. Blue and green: each occupy half the surface area of the lower triangule, in that order. The light brown shield is situated on the white half of the flag, with its centre line one fifth (1/5) of the distance from the hoist. Supported by an assegai (left), a bludgeon (right), and a plumed spine (centre), it symbolises the Lesotho Nation's traditional safeguards for peace."
    Source: The Lesotho Government Official Website.
    Jarig Bakker, 11 Jun 2001

    The meaning of "pula" in relation with rain and water is explained in depth on our Botswana page as follows:
    Both the currency and national motto of Botswana are Pula which means 'rain'. To a Tswana, pula means more than just the wet stuff which falls out the sky: it stands for luck, life and prosperity.
    Stuart A.Notholt, 3 November 1996

    The "Shipmate Flagchart 1998", authenticated by the Flag Research Center, shows the current Lesotho national flag as being in proportion of 9:14.
    Santiago Dotor, 24 Feb 2000

    Your various correspondents are a little unclear on the shields appearing in the arms and current flag of Lesotho. Both are examples of a style which varies quite a bit. One can gain a sense of the variations when one compares these Lesotho shields with those in the arms of Bophuthatswana and Qwaqwa. (Bophuthatswana is in Armoria, but Qwaqwa not yet. You'll find both in International Civic Arms).  The shape of the Tswana shield is distinct from the South Sotho variety, yet the Tswana and Sotho shields have characteristics that set them apart from the Nguni shield which is more common in Southern Africa.
    In the Tswana shield (and the one used by Qwaqwa, a South Sotho state) the four corners stick out more or less straight, and have their ends cut off straight. In the Sotho version they hang down slightly (more so on the Lesotho flag) and are rounded. Yet both varieties are characterised by what one might called a nipped waist.
    Individual shield makers in different villages no doubt work to a common concept, but incorporate local variations. After all, these shields are (like the Nguni shield type) made of hide and mounted on a frame of sticks, so their outline depends very much on who is cutting the hide.
    Another characteristic that the Sotho and Tswana shields have in common is that they are normally made fairly small, maximum height 30cm, for use in stick-fighting - which is the traditional recreation of young men among both the Basotho and the abeNguni.
    This is in contrast with the Nguni shield, which although nowadays chiefly also used in stick-fighting mode, is still to be seen in larger formats recalling their use in actual warfare. Various Nguni dance troops (chiefly Zulu) use these shields, most often in the style introduced by the Zulu King Shaka.
    In reforming the style of warfare in his realm (in the process building a kingdom out of his own rather small Zulu clan and the Mthethwa confederacy, whose king had taken him under his wing), Shaka abolished the traditional large Nguni shield, which stood about the height of a man.
    The warrior traditionally stood behind his shield while the enemy threw long throwing spears, and then stepped out to throw his own spears - or return the enemy's. This practice of hiding behind the shield gave rise to the Sotho (especially North Sotho) name for the Nguni peoples: Mathebele.
    This means "people who hide behind large shields". The word was taken into isiNguni as Ndebele, and came to be used for three distinct Nguni groups: the amaNdebele (or South Ndebele) of Mpumalanga, the amaNdebele (North Ndebele) of Northern Province, and the amaNdebele of Zimbabwe. The North and South Ndebele have lived in the Transvaal region for at least three centuries, whereas the Zimbabwean tribe (created by their king Mzilikazi, previously one of Shaka's lieutenants) are a product of the Mfecane (the period of widespread tribal warfare sparked off by Shaka).
    Shaka reduced the length of the spear to only 90cm, and decreed that it should be used for stabbing. (This weapon is properly called the assegai; other spears are not assegais.) To go with the assegai, the shield was reduced to about 60cm in height, and was reduced to being used to ward off blows in hand-to-hand fighting.
    In case you're not clear on the shape of the Nguni shield, it appears in the arms of Ciskei, KwaZulu, Gauteng, Swaziland and Gazankulu. Elsewhere it can be seen in the arms of Kenya and Tanzania, while it appears in error in the arms of Botswana.
    Swaziland shows a variation in the Nguni shield shape: it is quite a bit fatter than the other examples. Also, in these arms, the Nguni shield is a charge on a shield of Western shape.
    Mike Oettle, 14 Dec 2001

    I saw some interesting information about the Tswana definition of "thebe" in your web page about Lesotho. Thebe in Setswana means a "shield".  I did check the cited reference on this definition but I think it is a mistake.
    Baitsi Podisi (Botswana), 23 Feb 2002

    Aircraft Marking

    [Lesotho roundel] image by Željko Heimer, 7 Apr 2002

    Roundel of green-white-blue.
    The national flag is painted on the fin, explains the note.
    [cos98] has a similar roundel, but with the central disk being much larger.
    Also, the pre-1986 aircraft marking are given there, as four coloured roundel of BWRV, out-to-in, and the national flag on the fin.
    It seems from the text, that the "roundel version of the national flag" is also used, which I read as circular form of the flag.
    Željko Heimer, 7 Apr 2002

    The Royal Lesotho Defense Force-Air Squadron was founded in 1978 as the Police Air Wing. Its roundel is shown above with Željko describing it as being blue inside-white-green outside. Other sources [cos98] shows a similar roundel, but with the central disk being much larger.

    However, shows the Lesotho roundel as being exactly the opposite - green inside and much larger (as in [cos98] for blue), and blue on the outside.
    Dov Gutterman, 19 June 2004