b. 1786, d. 1870.
Founder of the kingdom of LeSotho. Legend has it that as a youth, he was taken to meet Mohlomi, a revered chief and diviner. Mohlomi told him that he was destiny to lead, and gave him advice on how to rule benevolently. Whereas before this Moshoeshoe seems to have been more than willing to use violence wantonly (having killed five of his own men up to this point), after this he explored other ways of earning people's loyalty.
For example, not long after meeting Mohlomi, Moshoeshoe learned of an enemy of his village whose cattle his father (then the head of the village) had taken. Moshoeshoe convinced his father to return the cattle under a system called mafisa, a system of patronage where a rich man would loan his cattle to a man without any of his own. In this way, Moshoeshoe turned an enemy into a vassal. He continued this pattern throughout his career.
Another thing he did was ending the practice of witch hunts. Before he did so, a ruler who was jealous of a subject's wealth would accuse him of witchcraft, which allowed him to dispossess the victim of his herds. Although ending witch hunts probably hurt Moshoeshoe's personal wealth, it did keep his subjects happier and make people more willing to place themselves under his protection, since their wealth was no longer limited by his.
A third practice he engaged in heavily was paying bride prices (bohali) for young men who wanted to marry but had no cattle. By doing so, he allowed them to marry when they otherwise could not, and he earned their loyalty. Later, the daughters of those marriages would be considered his, and he would recoup his investment.
Perhaps the most important thing Moshoeshoe did to ensure the long term survival of his people, however, was to encourage missionaries to enter his country. Part of the reason for this was in order to acquire guns from them, while the other was to gain favor with the British. In 1865, Afrikaners from the Orange Free State attacked LeSotho, and Moshoeshoe appealed to the British for protectorate status in 1868, allowing the state to survive into the present.
In spite of his reputation for nonviolence, Moshoeshoe was a more than competent warrior. His name is thought to be onomatopoeic, mimicking the sound of a razor scraping against skin. He earned the name, which would translate into English most closely as "The Shaver," for his prowess at cattle raids, where he would "shave" off of the herd of another.
The most impressive thing about Moshoeshoe was his political judgement. In many ways, he resembles Bismarck. He took a loose collection of villages and bound them together, doing it what it took to form them into a nation. In this way, he prevented his people and territory from being absorbed into what would become South Africa.
His descendant, Moshoeshoe II, led LeSotho to independence from the UK in 1966, and was named king of a constitutional monarchy. His prime minister, Chief Jonathon, suspended the constitution four years later, and the country was ruled by a military council until 1993.