Basutoland

March 12, 1868 – Basutoland, today called Lesotho, is annexed by the United Kingdom.

Between 1856 and 1868 the Basuto were engaged in conflict with the Orange Free State. Their King, Moshoeshoe I, sought British protection.  On August 29, 1865, he wrote to Sir Philip Wodehouse, the Governor of Cape Colony:

I am giving myself and my country up to Her Majesty’s Government under certain conditions which we may agree on between your Excellency and me.

In July 1866, after referring to the former letter, the Chief said:

All those things I have given up into your hands the last year…, they are still yours. I still continue to be the humble servant of Her Majesty.

Eventually, in January 1868, the Governor received a document dated December 9, 1867, signed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, authorizing the annexation of Basutoland to Natal (not to the Cape as Wodehouse wished).  On March 12, 1868, a Proclamation was issued declaring the Basutos to be British subjects and Basutoland to be British territory. It was not in fact annexed to Natal but was placed directly under the authority of the High Commissioner for South Africa. Three years later, it was annexed to the Cape Colony by Act No. 12 of 1871 of the Parliament of the Cape of Good Hope, confirmed by Order in Council of November 3, 1871.  Cape Colony rule was not popular with the people and by an Order in Council dated February 2, 1884, and brought into force on 18 March 1884, the Royal Assent was given to a Cape Bill repealing the Act of 1871. Basutoland was brought under the direct authority of the Queen and legislative and executive powers were vested in the High Commissioner.

The need for an organised form of Postal service became necessary to serve the Police and Administrative staff based in Maseru.

Maseru initially functioned as the state’s administrative capital between 1869 and 1871, before administration of Basutoland was transferred to the Cape Colony. During their rule between 1871 and 1884, Basutoland was treated similarly to territories that had been forcefully annexed, much to the chagrin of the Basotho. The name Maseru supposedly means “Place of the red earth.”

The Cape Colony was given the task of administrating Basutoland at this time. It was some time before stamps and cancellers were actually used.

The earliest recorded date for a Maseru cancellation is December 15, 1878, although it is suggested that the Maseru Post Office was in a position to cancel mail by 1876 or perhaps a year or two earlier.  Cape of Good Hope stamps were used during this period.

Shown here is a stampless cover mailed from the Maseru Post Office to Cape Town in 1909:

basutoland - maseru cancellation 1909

In 1933, when the Basutoland Post Office became autonomous, the cancellers followed the style of those employed by the Union of South Africa and continued in use until they became worn and were gradually replaced with date-stamps inscribed BASUTOLAND instead of SOUTH AFRICA.

The first 10 postage stamps issued by Basutoland in 1933 are shown here:

basutoland 1933 - first 10 stamps

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