The Lesotho Government is a parliamentary or constitutional monarchy. The Prime Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili, is head of government and has executive authority. The King of Lesotho, Letsie III, serves a largely ceremonial function; he no longer possesses any executive authority and is prohibited from actively participating in political initiatives.
The Democratic Congress leads a coalition government in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament.
The upper house of parliament, called the Senate, is composed of twenty-two principal chiefs whose membership is hereditary, and eleven appointees of the king, acting on the advice of the prime minister.
The constitution provides for an independent judicial system, made up of the High Court, the Court of Appeal, Magistrate's Courts, and traditional courts that exist predominantly in rural areas. All but one of the Justices on the Court of Appeal are South African jurists. There is no trial by jury; rather, judges make rulings alone or, in the case of criminal trials, with two other judges as observers.
The constitution also protects basic civil liberties, including freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of the press, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of religion. Lesotho was ranked 12th out of 48 sub-Saharan African countries in the 2008 Ibrahim Index of African Governance.
As of 2010 the People's Charter Movement called for the practical annexation of the country by South Africa due to the AIDS epidemic. Nearly a quarter of the population is infected with HIV. The country faced high unemployment, economic collapse, a weak currency and poor travel documents restricting movement. An African Union report called for economic integration of Lesotho with South Africa but stopped short of suggesting annexation. In May 2010 the Charter Movement delivered a petition to the South African High Commission requesting integration. South Africa's home affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa rejected the idea that Lesotho should be treated as a special case. "It is a sovereign country like South Africa. We sent envoys to our neighbours – Botswana, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Lesotho – before we enforced the passport rule. When you travel from Britain to South Africa, don't you expect to use a passport?"
Lesotho's geographic location makes it extremely vulnerable to political and economic developments in South Africa. It is a member of many regional economic organisations, including the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the Southern African Customs Union (SACU). It is also active in the United Nations (UN), the African Union, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Commonwealth, and many other international organisations.
Prince Seeiso Hirohr Seeiso is the present High Commissioner of the Kingdom of Lesotho to the Court of St. James's. The UN is represented by a resident mission as well, including UNDP, UNICEF, WHO, FAO, WFP, UNFPA and UNAIDS.
Lesotho also has maintained ties with the United Kingdom (Wales in particular), Germany, the United States and other Western states. Although in 1990 it broke relations with the People's Republic of China (PRC) and re-established relations with the Republic of China (Taiwan), it later restored ties with the PRC.
Lesotho also recognises the State of Palestine and the Republic of Kosovo.
In the past, it was a strong public opponent of apartheid in South Africa and granted a number of South African refugees political asylum during the apartheid era.
Lesotho does not have a single code containing its laws; it draws them from a variety of sources including: Constitution, Legislation, Common Law, Judicial precedent, Customary Law, and Authoritative texts.
The Constitution of Lesotho came into force after the publication of the Commencement Order. Constitutionally, legislation refers to laws that have been passed by both houses of parliament and have been assented to by the king (section 78(1)). Subordinate legislation refers to laws passed by other bodies to which parliament has by virtue of section 70(2) of the Constitution validly delegated such legislative powers. These include government publications, ministerial orders, ministerial regulations and municipal by-laws.
Although Lesotho shares with South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, Namibia and Zimbabwe a mixed general legal system which resulted from the interaction between the Roman-Dutch Civilian law and the English Common Law, its general law operates independently. Lesotho also applies the common law, which refers to unwritten law or law from non-statutory sources, but excludes customary law. Decisions from South African courts are only persuasive, and courts refer to them in formulating their decisions. Decisions from similar jurisdictions can also be cited for their persuasive value. Magistrates’ courts decisions do not become precedent since these are lower courts. They are however bound by decisions of the High Court and the Court of Appeal. At the apex of the Lesotho justice system is the Court of Appeal, which is the final appellate forum on all matters. It has a supervisory and review jurisdiction over all the courts of Lesotho.
Lesotho has a dual legal system consisting of customary and general laws operating side by side. Customary law is made up of the customs of the Basotho, written and codified in the Laws of Lerotholi whereas general law consists of Roman Dutch Law imported from the Cape and the Lesotho statutes. The codification of customary law came about after a council was appointed in 1903 to advise the British Resident Commissioner on what was best for the Basotho in terms of laws that would govern them. Until this time, the Basotho customs and laws were passed down from generation to generation through oral tradition. The council was then given the task of codifying them, came up with the Laws of Lerotholi which are applied by customary courts today (local courts). Written works of eminent authors have persuasive value in the courts of Lesotho. These include writings of the old authorities as well as contemporary writers from similar jurisdictions.