South Africa


Regular violations of rights

Same as last year


Workers' rights violations


On 19 August 2021, Malibongwe Mdazo, a campaigner and organiser for the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), was assassinated in broad daylight at the office of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) in Rustenburg. He was shot as he was exiting with a group of NUMSA members from the CCMA offices, in full view of the public. The hitmen fired at least ten bullets.

NUMSA officials were participating in conciliation at the CCMA as part of the verification process for NUMSA members at Newrack, one of the contract companies at Impala Platinum Holdings (Implats), which outsources most of its workforce in Rustenburg. Another NUMSA member and a member of the public were also shot and injured in the shooting.

Mdazo was among those who led the recent strike where the union was challenging contractors at Implats to grant organisational rights to NUMSA. Implats was notorious for its union-bashing attitude, which even led to the unilateral dismissal of all NUMSA’s interim committees.

Violent attacks on workers

Since 22 November 2021, five thousand workers at Clover, which is South Africa’s largest dairy company and is owned by Israeli company Milco, have been on strike in response to job losses, pay cuts and health and safety concerns. Clover’s response was to hire a private police company armed with military vehicles and machine guns to intimidate the workers and break the strike. Workers faced threats, petrol bomb attacks and rubber bullets. On the nights of 7 and 8 January 2022, the cars of two striking workers were petrol bombed. On the night of 9 January, five carloads of men visited two striking workers and demanded that they end the strike. On the same night, another three striking workers received threatening phone calls demanding that they end the strike.


In South Africa, about 100 workers at Rhodes University began a strike on 10 August 2021 after the institution failed to recognise their union, the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (NUPSAW). Having unionised over ten per cent of the university workers, NUPSAW had approached the university on 29 April 2021 seeking recognition, including the right to organise and recruit members and hold meetings on campus.

When asked why the university would not recognise the union, its senior communications officer said, in blatant violation of South African laws, that NUPSAW was not sufficiently representative.

Right to collective bargaining

On 21 April 2021, the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) appeared in court opposite Rand Water after the company tried to ban a protected strike called by the union. SAMWU decided to embark on an indefinite protected strike after the employer unilaterally changed the workers’ conditions of service, in particular withdrawing incentive bonuses that workers had been receiving for the last seventeen years. The union had tried several times to meet with the management of Rand Water to convince them to reconsider their decision but to no avail.

Dismissals for participating in strike action

Four members of the National Emancipated and Allied Workers’ Union of South Africa (NEAWUSA) were suspended on 2 May 2021 by the OVK, a milling company, in Tweespruit, South Africa, following a month-long strike over unsafe conditions in the workplace. The workers were attempting to raise safety concerns with the employer after several serious incidents and injuries had occurred.

Dismissals for participating in strike action

In South Africa, 500 workers were terminated by the Steve Tshwete Local Municipality for allegedly taking part in illegal strike action. The public employees were demanding the implementation of the adjustment of their salaries across the board and commenced strike action on 21 September 2021. The workers had been given a 48-hour return-to-work ultimatum on 8 November, and when they failed to return, they were given notice of the termination of their employment. The workers were reinstated a week later after the intervention of the SA Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) and COSATU.

Workers’ rights in law

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