Africa

3.71

Regular violations of rights

Better than last year

Burundi, Central African Republic, Somalia and South Sudan were still plagued by internal conflicts which further deteriorated the humanitarian situation and deprived millions of people basic protections. In other African countries, the year was marked by increased retaliation against workers during protests and union-busting actions by authorities

At a glance

95%

95% of countries violated the right to strike.

95%

95% of countries violated the right to collective bargaining.

90%

90% of countries excluded workers from the right to establish and join a trade union.

76%

76% of countries in Africa denied workers access to justice.

36%

36% of countries arrested and detained workers.

33%

Workers experienced violence in 33% of countries in Africa.

79%

79% of countries impeded the registration of unions.

50%

50% of countries in Africa restricted free speech and assembly.

Workers were murdered in Nigeria.

Workers' rights violations

Right to strikeProsecution of union leaders for participating in strikes

95%

95% of countries violated the right to strike.

Prosecution of union leaders for participating in strikes

On 6 July 2020, the Zimbabwean Nurses’ Association (ZINA) organised strikes in Harare and Bulawayo to request a salary review and their outstanding COVID-19 allowances as well as the adequate provision of personal protective equipment. Prior to the protests, the government had rendered the Bipartite Negotiating Panel for the sector useless, unilaterally declaring that it would not be engaging in any form of collective bargaining for the next three months. Instead of opening dialogue, the government ordered the arrest of thirteen nurses. They have since been released on bail, but all have been dismissed. Strikes continued for 33 days without a return to negotiations.

Prosecution of union leaders for participating in strikes

In September 2020, Taiwanese-owned FTM Garments took the Amalgamated Trade Unions of Swaziland (ATUSWA) to court over alleged loss of production for four days and damages to property following a picket. This legal action, which aims at bankrupting the union, came just one week after the union took the company to court over its refusal to recognise ATUSWA, despite a Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration Commission’s ruling in January 2020. ATUSWA has long fought for a living wage for textile workers in Eswatini who are paid 1800 lilangeni per month (US$108). The union is campaigning for a minimum living wage of 3500 lilangeni (US$210).

Prosecution of union leaders for participating in strikes

In Gabon, striking workers at the navy base stevedoring and shipping company Satram in Port-Gentil were set upon by police on 1 October 2020. The strike, which had been ongoing since 25 September to protest 24 months’ salary arrears, ended with violence against the workers by security forces, and the arrest of seven employees.

Right to strikeDismissals for participating in strike action

95%

95% of countries violated the right to strike.

Dismissals for participating in strike action

Bull Clothing, a garment factory in Lesotho, fired 253 workers, accusing them of taking strike action. It then rehired them on new contracts, at lower salaries, subject to a three-month trial period. The workers were fired in August 2020 after gathering to ask the company why a payment of 800 maLoti (US$46) from the government had been delayed by management. The company accused them of taking wildcat strike action and summarily dismissed the 253 workers.

Right to collective bargaining

95%

95% of countries violated the right to collective bargaining.

Right to collective bargaining

In Kenya, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), the national authority in the education sector, has engaged in an anti-union campaign against the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT), discriminating against KNUT members and denying them the application of the collective agreement. TSC has also refused to collect union fees. This systematic attack against the KNUT has decimated union membership in the education sector and hindered the trade unions’ capacity to represent its members. In addition, the TSC attempted to revoke KNUT’s trade union recognition agreement signed in 1968.

Right to collective bargaining

In Namibia, nine union leaders at Rössing Uranium mine were unfairly dismissed in January 2021 after they refused the proposals of the mine owner, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) Rössing Uranium, to amend the existing collective bargaining agreement. CNNC wanted changes in the agreement, including on leave, medical aid, wages and retrenchment provisions. After facing resistance from the union and being notified of an impending strike action, the company instead targeted the union leadership and fired the nine workers, arguing “gross negligence”, “bringing the company into disrepute” and “breaching confidentiality”.

Right to collective bargaining

On 25 July 2020, Shavindra Dinoo Sundassee was dismissed by the Airports of Mauritius Ltd following his opposition to the management’s unilateral modification of the terms of the collective agreement.

Right to collective bargaining

In Mauritius, workers’ representatives were summarily dismissed by companies during the renegotiation of collective agreements. On 18 June 2020, Luximun Badal was dismissed by Mauritius Post Ltd for alleged refusal of a unilateral transfer following disputes over the negotiation of a new collective bargaining agreement for postal workers, the previous agreement having lapsed on 31 December 2017. Mr Badal had an agreement brokered by the Ministry of Labour on 18 February 2016 that protected him from being transferred as long as he was the president of the union. This did not prevent Mauritius Post Ltd from firing the union leader and later defying a court ruling from 18 October 2020 ordering the company to disclose information relevant to collective bargaining.

Right to establish and join a trade unionUnion-busting

90%

90% of countries excluded workers from the right to establish and join a trade union.

Union-busting

On 11 February 2020, workers at the Marriott Sheraton Grand Conakry, Guinea, voted, with 96% of votes in favour, to form a union and elected their leaders. The lengthy process had begun in March 2019. Throughout, hotel management tried all possible means to stop the election. However, only a few months after the union election, management at the Marriot commenced retaliatory suspension and firings, claiming fallacious pretexts to do so.

In August 2020, General Secretary Amadou Diallo and Deputy General Secretary Alhassane Diallo of the new union (FHTRC-ONSLG) met with management to express their serious disagreement with the proposed termination of a colleague for breaking a vase. Within days, hotel management suspended the two union leaders without pay and terminated them on 28 September. To this date, Amadou Diallo and Alhassane Diallo still await their reinstatement.

Union-busting

In early 2020, the Footwear and Tanners Allied Workers Union of Zimbabwe (FTAWUZ), a ZCTU affiliate, submitted to the shoemaking company Bata a list of over 500 workers they had organised into a union and requested that the company remit to the union the deductions of union subscription through the check-off system. Bata flatly refused to proceed, claiming that workers, members of FTAWUZ, were also members of another union and using the pretext that during the COVID-19 lockdown, the check-off agreement was not applicable. To date, more than 200 of the unionised employees are still being denied recognition of their union rights.

Right to justice

76%

76% of countries in Africa denied workers access to justice.

Right to justice

On 27 July 2020, the Zimbabwean ruling party, ZANU-PF, convened a press conference in which the spokesperson, Patrick Chinamasa, attacked and labelled the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) a “Trojan Horse of the MDC-Alliance and a terrorist organisation together with the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition”, a civil society organisation.

On the same day, the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) issued a statement that they were hunting down ZCTU president Peter Mutasa, as well as Obert Masaraure and Robson Chere, leaders of the Amalgated Rural Teachers Union (ARTUZ), with regard to the 31 July 2019 strike. The day after, police began a manhunt for ZCTU member Godfrey Tsenengamu, Peter Mutasa and eleven other political and union members, requesting members of the public to supply information on the location of the activists. No statement was released on the reasons behind this manhunt.

Right to justice

Moudi Moussa, journalist and trade unionist, and Halidou Mounkaila, leader of the teachers' union (SYNACEB), took part on 15 March 2020 in a demonstration in Niamey, Niger, to demand an investigation into allegations of embezzlement by the Ministry of Defence. The rally was violently repressed by security forces. A dozen people, including Moussa and Mounkaila, were arrested and charged with “organising an unauthorised rally, complicity in damaging public property, arson, and homicide with extenuating circumstances”. While the detained protesters were released on 30 April, Moudi Moussa, and Halidou Mounkaila remained behind bars for another five months and were only released on 29 September 2020 after sustained international mobilisation.

Right to civil liberties

36%

36% of countries arrested and detained workers.

Right to civil liberties

In 2020 - 2021, many other trade unionists in Sudan were subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention, including Osama Dawina Hamad Al-Nil, treasurer of the Federation of Trade Unions in North Kordofan State; Eng. Abdel-Baqi Nour Al-Daem Muhammad, member of the executive office of Sudan Workers’ Trade Union Federation (SWTUF); Hussam Eddin Suleiman, member of the Syndicate for the Ministry of Education; Muhammad Al-Makki Saleh, general secretary of the Education Syndicate in North Darfur; Osama Taha Al-Bashir, the deputy treasurer of the Gadaref State Workers’ Union; Al-Amin Ahmed Mohamed Tom, youth secretary of the Gedaref State Workers’ Union; and Alamuddin Yahya Farah, head of the Syndicate of the Ministry of Education.

Right to civil liberties

On 24 January 2021, Halat Algamer Elnour, head of the Syndicate of National Audit Chamber of Sudan, was arrested in Khartoum by security forces and was released only four days later. She was also accused of refusing to release trade union properties to the government following the unlawful dissolution of trade unions by the subcommittee of the Dismantling and Empowerment Committee of the Transitional Sovereignty Council of Sudan on 14 December 2019.

Right to civil liberties

On 16 August 2020, the Sudanese authorities issued an arrest warrant for Al Sadig Al Rezegy, President of Sudanese Journalists’ Union (SJU), after he refused to hand over the property and assets of the SJU, which was disbanded by the authorities earlier in the year. Among the charges against Al Rezegy, who is also president of the Federation of African Journalists, were claims that he continued to run the union and be active after it had been outlawed and that he attended meetings of the IFJ, FAJ and other international bodies representing the banned SJU.

Violent attacks on workers

33%

Workers experienced violence in 33% of countries in Africa.

Violent attacks on workers

On 15 March 2020, the police brutally repressed a demonstration organised by various trade unions and civil society in Niamey, Niger, to demand an investigation into allegations of embezzlement by the Ministry of Defence. Security forces fired tear gas at the roofs of stores in the Tagabati market, triggering a fire. Moudi Moussa, journalist and trade unionist, and Halidou Mounkaila, leader of a teachers' union (SYNACEB), were arrested and arbitrarily detained for seven months.

Right to trade union activities

79%

79% of countries impeded the registration of unions.

Right to trade union activities

On 5 October 2020, the trade union certificate of the Dockworkers’ Union of Liberia (DOWUL) at the National Port Authority of Liberia was suspended by the Ministry of labour pending the outcome of an investigation into an alleged report of instigating violence at the APM Terminals in the Free Port of Monrovia. According to the labour minister, the Ministry received calls from the management of APM Terminals informing them of a go-slow strike action from union leadership and calling on the Ministry to intervene. Meetings between DOWUL leaders, APM Terminal management and the Labour Ministry were unsuccessful, and in the days following, DOWUL organised a strike action in the Free Port. The Labour Ministry retaliated by suspending the union’s certification.

Right to free speech and assembly

50%

50% of countries in Africa restricted free speech and assembly.

Right to free speech and assembly

The government of Zimbabwe banned demonstrations against the deteriorating social and economic crisis in the country that were planned for 31 July 2020. Labour activists, students, journalists and organisers of the demonstrations were arrested and charged with inciting violence and attempting to overthrow the government. The actual demonstrations were stifled by a heavy police and army presence, and the few who took placards out to the streets were arrested.

Right to free speech and assembly

On 5 February 2020, four union leaders were arrested in Libreville, Gabon, during the demonstration of Dynamique Unitaire, the country's leading trade union organisation, to challenge the government's austerity plan. Using the pretext of the ongoing meetings concerning the reform of the Labour Code on 4 February, the Ministry of Interior pre-emptively banned the demonstration. The trade union leaders decided to go ahead with the planned demonstration, but the authorities sent in the police force, which brutally repressed the protesters and arrested the union leaders.

Right to free speech and assembly

On 30 October 2020, workers from Truda Foods in South Africa gathered to protest the firing of their colleagues for activity on social media. Truda had suspended several workers for “liking” posts made by their union’s general secretary. Olwethu Samente, Vuyiswa Gontsana, Luyanda Qumza, Yolisa Alam, Zethu Sopete and Lungiswa Solundwana received letters suspending them for committing “an action/conduct detrimental to the interest of the employer” and “indecent/inappropriate conduct”. After being suspended, the workers asked to see Truda’s social media policy. Instead, they were fired.

In Sudan, a trade-union-led alliance forced President Omar al-Bashir from power, but basic workers’ rights continued to be violated.Ebrahim Hamid / AFP

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