Peter Sanders was one of the last administrative officers to be recruited from Britain
and posted to Basutoland, as it then was, arriving in 1961. He worked in the
Secretariat, and as a D.O. in mountain and lowland districts, did a short spell acting as
Secretary to the Constitutional Commission and, as Chief Electoral Officer, organised
the elections which led to self-government and independence in 1965/6. He left
Lesotho, as it became, in October 1966. He has written A Life of Moshoeshoe, the 19th
century founder of the Basotho nation and, jointly with Mosebi Damane, published an
edited translation of the praise poems of the Basotho chiefs. He was Chief Executive of
the Race Relations Board in Britain from 1988 to 1993.
The Last of the Queen's Men is, he says, 'an attempt to recapture what it was like for
me, as a young and impressionable Englishman, to work as an administrator in the last
days of British rule in Basutoland'. One of the nice things about this honest book by an
honest man is the way he pokes gentle fun at that young and impressionable Englishman
who 'prided himself on his liberal outlook' and the fact that he had not been to public
school, whose strong Nonconformist background caused him to sit 'silently asking
myself whether I could be of more use to the world' in a developed or an underdeveloped
country, and who was at first uncomfortable having domestic servants
working for his family.
The truth is that Sanders of Lesotho is a romantic, his book a tale of youthful love.
He fell for the grandeur of this mountain kingdom and its sturdy peasantry on their
sturdy ponies. It was an intense personal experience, and he has written a highly
personal book. He may have lost his heart but he kept his head, studying the country, its
people, their history and their culture in order to understand what he was experiencing,
so that 'romanticism became grounded in reality'.
The book gives a good picture of the very varied duties which might fall to a
fortunate young D.O. He evokes life in a small, dusty capital, and the people he met,
Boers, Britons and Basotho, some larger-than-life characters among them, always with a
The book does not set out to be a comprehensive account of political developments in
Basutoland/Lesotho, rather do wider political developments form the context in which
Sanders moves and works, but this background is succinctly presented. There are no
surprising revelations, as far as your reviewer can judge, but some of the political
paragraphs are of considerable interest, such as his description of the attitude of the
Basotho Chiefs and politicians on the Executive Council to asylum-seekers from South
One of the strengths of this book is the even-handedness of Sander's judgments.
Political correctness is firmly put in its place. While it is now taken as axiomatic that
colonialism was exploitation, he says 'such critiques are too subservient to the political
preoccupations and fashions of the day, and need to be set against... the testimony of the
individuals, black and white, who made up the many different colonial situations over a
long period of time'. The testimony of a former Chief Executive of the Race Relations
Board, based on his personal experience as a young man must be of particular
significance. His book is 'neither a triumphant vindication nor a defensive apologia' but
he remains 'convinced that - certainly in the 1960s - the British were acting in good
faith in Lesotho' in what they believed were the interests of the Basotho to prepare them
This book should be required reading for any student of Southern African affairs. It is
likely to appeal to anyone who has shared the colonial experience. We were all
romantics, weren't we?