Africa

3.76

Regular violations of rights

Worse 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 of basic protections.

2022 was marked by a succession of coups d’état in Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea, Mali and Sudan, which severely curtailed workers’ civil liberties and freedoms, including the right to peaceful assembly and access to justice.

At a glance

95%

95% of countries violated the right to strike.

No change from 2021
95%

95% of countries excluded workers from the right to establish and join a trade union.

Compared with 90% in 2021
93%

93% of countries violated the right to collective bargaining.

Compared with 95% in 2021
90%

90% of countries in Africa denied workers access to justice.

Compared with 76% in 2021
79%

79% of countries impeded the registration of unions.

No change from 2021
45%

45% of countries in Africa restricted free speech and assembly.

Compared with 50% in 2021
36%

36% of countries arrested and detained workers.

No change from 2021
31%

Workers experienced violence in 31% of countries in Africa.

Compared with 33% in 2021

Workers were murdered in Eswatini, Lesotho and South Africa.

Workers' rights violations

Right to strikeProsecution of union leaders for participating in strikes

95%

95% of countries violated the right to strike.

No change from 2021

Prosecution of union leaders for participating in strikes

In November 2021, nearly 100 teachers were arrested in Sudan as two days of civil disobedience and strikes in protest at the military coup began. Security forces used tear gas against workers protesting outside the education ministry building for Khartoum state. Many were beaten and at least one, a head teacher, had her leg broken.

Eighty-seven teachers were arrested and taken to the military headquarters after prosecutors refused to release them on bail.

In Neyala, the capital of South Darfur, unknown men in plain clothes raided teachers’ houses and arrested another five teachers, including Gamal Margan, who is in charge of the education of the shepherds. On 8 November 2021, military forces also stormed the Secondary Education Department in Karray in order to install a new, pro-military management.

Right to strikeDismissals for participating in strike action

95%

95% of countries violated the right to strike.

No change from 2021

Dismissals for participating in strike action

Following a 48-hour teachers' strike in Togo, demanding that the government respect the reimbursement of their exceptional bonus, 1,192 school principals were downgraded. An order was issued on 4 November 2021 by the Minister of Primary, Secondary, Technical Education and Handicrafts to replace just over 1,000 public school principals and ask teachers to resume their place in the classroom.

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.

Dismissals for participating in strike action

In November 2021, the Employment Placement and Services Namibia (EPSN) dismissed 43 workers who had been on strike since 12 October, deeming their action illegal.

Dismissals for participating in strike action

Dockworkers in Liberia remained out of work for seven months after the management of APM Terminals Monrovia (APMT) suspended 24 employees and locked them out of the company’s facilities in October 2020 following their protest action over working conditions. With support from the Dock Workers’ Union (DOWUL), workers had been demanding better working conditions, including unpaid leave allowances, working hours, medical insurance and food allowance.

The struggle went on for over months, with many other workers supporting their suspended colleagues and echoing their demands.

On 21 April 2021, the Liberian Ministry of Labour announced its decision that APMT had “failed to prove its accusations against the 24 suspended workers” and called for the workers to be reinstated. APMT still refused to reinstate them, and on 4 May 2021 another letter from the Liberian minister of justice was sent, warning APMT to comply immediately and unconditionally with the government’s decision. On 7 May 2021, APMT finally conceded, and the workers returned to work with the clear understanding that the government expected APTM to seek to resolve all their concerns.

Right to establish and join a trade unionWorkers excluded from labour protections

95%

95% of countries excluded workers from the right to establish and join a trade union.

Compared with 90% in 2021

Workers excluded from labour protections

The legislation in Rwanda still prohibited political office holders and officers of the security services to establish and join trade unions.

Right to establish and join a trade unionUnion-busting

95%

95% of countries excluded workers from the right to establish and join a trade union.

Compared with 90% in 2021

Union-busting

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.

Union-busting

In June 2021, the Société des Brasseries du Mali (BRAMALI) proceeded to targeted dismissals of the company union officials, including the union deputy general secretary, the communication secretary and the finance secretary. Several other union officials were on the waiting list to be dismissed and given eight days' notice. The firings came amidst a union struggle at BRAMALI after a three-day strike in May 2021.

Union-busting

Workers at Style Industries Ltd, a manufacturer of synthetic hair, have been fighting since 2015 to have their union, the Kenyan Union of Hair and Beauty Workers (KUHABWO), recognised. KUHABWO recruited 3,811 workers out of a workforce of 6,000, of whom 85 per cent are women, but the company did all it could to harass and discourage union members. When union officials came to recruit workers during breaks or lunch time, the employer used the police to harass and arrest the workers to stop them from speaking with union representatives.

The dispute became deadlocked at conciliation, and the case went to the Employment and Labour Relations Court, which issued a restraining order against the company in 2017. The order instructed Style Industries to stop “victimising, intimidating, coercing, harassing, and indulging in unfair labour practices” and allow for the case to be finalised in court. Further, the court said the company must stop terminating contracts and dismissing union members because of their union membership.

Despite the court’ decision, the company’s union-busting tactics continued, and in May 2021 it dismissed another 150 union members. Those who were not deterred by the move and remained union members were threatened with dismissals.

A solidarity campaign was launched in June 2021 to raise awareness of the company’s anti-union tactics.

Union-busting

Since October 2020, Amadou Diallo and Alhassane Diallo, respectively secretary general and deputy secretary general of the Sheraton Grand Conakry workers' union, have been seeking reinstatement after their anti-union dismissal. Despite international solidarity campaigns and a complaint to the ILO, the management of the hotel has stubbornly opposed their reinstatement.

Workers of the Sheraton Grand Conakry, which is the largest hotel in Guinea, began organising in March 2019 in response to low wages, unpaid overtime and an absence of healthcare provisions. The lengthy unionisation process ended with the successful union election on 11 February 2020. Throughout this time, hotel management tried all possible means to stop the election, and in a blatant union-bashing move, resorted to unfairly dismissing the two union leaders.

Right to collective bargaining

93%

93% of countries violated the right to collective bargaining.

Compared with 95% in 2021

Right to collective bargaining

The National Union of Metal and Allied Industries of Zimbabwe (NUMAIZ) protested workers’ rights violations at Chinese-owned Afrochine Smelting and the total lack of compliance with the laws and existing collective agreements. In the past year, Afrochine failed to pay wages in due time and proceeded to unilaterally terminate 33 workers without prior consultation with the union. Conciliation efforts at the National Employment Council of the ferroalloy industry – a social dialogue platform – failed as Afrochine representatives did not show up at a meeting on 22 September 2021.

Workers at Afrochine live in fear, with no job security, and are being humiliated and beaten up by supervisors on a daily basis. Any attempt at reporting abuses is punished by immediate dismissal.

Afrochine is a subsidiary of the world’s biggest stainless steel product manufacturer, Tsingshan Holding Group, which trades on the London Metals Exchange. Over 1,500 workers are employed at the ferrochrome plant, which is about 75 kilometres from Harare.

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.

Right to collective bargaining

Around 11,000 local government workers in Nairobi, Kenya, went on strike on 13 October 2021 over the non-implementation of a collective bargaining agreement going back to 2013. The workers’ grievances, for years, included lack of promotions, repeated delays in salary payments and failure to remit statutory deductions. Another grievance was lack of personal protective equipment, and more recently at least 11,000 county workers had been without medical cover since July 2021.

After two days, the Kenya County Government Workers’ Union (KCGWU) was told its members could return to work. The union hoped promises regarding the workers’ key demands would be kept, but the government had agreed to workers’ demands before and repeatedly reneged on them.

Problems resurfaced at the beginning of February 2022, and workers gave City Hall 21 days to pay them more than KSh560 million in pending salaries and remit statutory deductions or they would take industrial action.

Right to justice

90%

90% of countries in Africa denied workers access to justice.

Compared with 76% in 2021

Right to justice

Two years after their unfair dismissals, Luximun Badal and Shavindra Dinoo Sunassee, respectively president of the Union of Post Office Workers Branch No. 2 and ex-president of the Airports of Mauritius Limited Employees Union, still seek their reinstatement.

Badal had been dismissed by Mauritius Post Ltd on 18 June 2020 for alleged refusal of a unilateral transfer following disputes over the negotiation of a new collective bargaining agreement for the postal workers, the previous agreement having lapsed on 31 December 2017. Sunassee was dismissed a few days later by the Airports of Mauritius Ltd after several attempts by management to unilaterally vary the terms of a collective bargaining agreement to which Sundassee was opposed.

Right to trade union activities

79%

79% of countries impeded the registration of unions.

No change from 2021

Right to trade union activities

On 14 December 2019, all trade unions and professional associations in Sudan were dissolved by a decree of the Sovereignty Council, which also seized all unions’ properties and assets. Since then and especially after the military coup in October 2021, independent unions have been unable to operate in the country.

Right to free speech and assembly

45%

45% of countries in Africa restricted free speech and assembly.

Compared with 50% in 2021

Right to free speech and assembly

On 1 May 2021, May Day celebrations by the Chitungwiza District branch of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) were prevented from going ahead by the police, who came to the venue, harassed workers, denied them entrance to the hall and threatened to arrest them.

The ZCTU regional official present demanded that the police provide a written explanation for banning the event, which the senior police officer in charge refused to do.

ZCTU has experienced many such situations for a long time. People sent from the president’s office or the police themselves interrupt ZCTU activities, harass and disperse workers or they demand to see programmes or to sit in on the meetings.

Right to free speech and assembly

On 20 October 2021, public sector employees who went to deliver a petition to the Public Service Ministry were met with what they described as an “unprecedented show of force”. The petition called for a salary review for 2021, an end to casualisation of the public service, stopping the privatisation of the public service and stopping trade union bashing.

The national commissioner of police banned the march, citing “national security” and “public safety and order”. When workers gathered to march and to hand over the petition, having followed all necessary protocol, the police dispersed workers using tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets. Two buses carrying public service workers, including members of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) and the Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union (SDNU), were stopped by the police, and tear gas was fired at them. The doors of the bus were closed. As workers tried to leave, they were shot at. Eventually the back windows were broken, and workers managed to escape. A total of 36 were reportedly injured, and a young bystander was killed. Other reports said that at least 80 people were injured in the violence in the Eswatini capital, Mbabane, and the city of Manzini.

Right to free speech and assembly

In December 2021, the Municipal Council of Mbabane, Eswatini, denied public sector associations (PSAs), which include the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), permission to march across the city to deliver a petition to the Ministry of Public Service.

The letter from the municipality referred to a directive received from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development to “indefinitely suspend the issuance of permits for all processions within urban areas”, dated 21st October 2021.

Right to free speech and assembly

Pro-democracy protests in Eswatini have been ongoing since May 2021, with trade unions and other civil society groups calling for democratic elections and an end to absolute monarchy in the country, which bans political parties from participating in elections. Throughout these protests, it is estimated that 72 protestors have been killed by police and government forces. Hundreds have been injured, while some remain missing. Some activists have gone into hiding and others have fled into exile. In a statement on 18 October 2021, Eswatini’s commerce minister, Mancoba Khumalo, stated that workers risked losing their jobs if they participated in the pro-democracy protests against King Mswati.

Right to free speech and assembly

After the coup in January 2022, trade unions in Burkina Faso attempted to organise a rally. They were prevented from doing so by the military junta. Since then, unions have been unable to organise collective actions.

Right to civil liberties

36%

36% of countries arrested and detained workers.

No change from 2021

Right to civil liberties

The secretary general of the Confédération Syndicale du Congo (CSC), Fidèle Kiyangi Matangila, who is also in charge of the Central Workers of Banks and Financial Institutions and president of the National Intersyndicale of Public Administration (INAP), was arrested at the administrative building of the civil service. His arrest by the security forces followed a protest action by union members against non-payment of wages and bonuses over a period of four months by the financial service employer.

Violent attacks on workers

31%

Workers experienced violence in 31% of countries in Africa.

Compared with 33% in 2021

Violent attacks on workers

On 12 January 2022, Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) members engaged in a protest action at the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) building, where the National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC) meeting was taking place between the government and trade unions. The demonstrators were demanding the restoration of their salaries to 2018 levels – levels prior to the government’s implementation of austerity measures. As the teachers gathered at the venue, police arrived with guns and batons. The teachers were threatened, assaulted and made to lie on their stomachs. Sixteen leaders of ARTUZ were arrested, including the ARTUZ president, Obert Masaraure.

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.

Violent attacks on workers

On 17 May 2021, striking civil servants led by Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) leader Ayuba Wabba were attacked by a mob mobilised by Governor El-Rufai while peacefully exercising their rights to protest. On 18 May 2021, the state government announced its decision to immediately dismiss all civil servants who took part in what is referred to as an unlawful strike.

Violent attacks on workers

On 26 April 2021, police officers attending a worker protest at the Thetsane industrial area in Maseru, Lesotho, shot at protesters with rubber bullets, leaving three hospitalised. The victims were part of a group of protesters who had gathered at the factories to demand a salary increase. Hundreds of factory workers had downed tools and organised a picket, which was eventually brutally dispersed by armed police officers.

Violent attacks on workers

On 20 May 2021, the police went to the home of Barry Abdoulaye, president of the Telecoms Union (FESATEL) in Guinea, at 2:45 a.m. and asked to enter. The doorman standing guard refused. The police told him to enter himself to look for a member of Mr Abdoulaye's family to talk to the police. After the doorman refused again, the police finally left the premises. This incident occurred as FESATEL expressed its opposition to the Guinean government's plan to impose a tax on all mobile phone calls in the country, which would have negative repercussions on investments of mobile phone companies and eventually on employment.

Violent attacks on workers

After participating in a picket in front of the Omar Bongo University in Gabon, Professor Mathurin Ovono Ebe, president of the Omar Bongo University section of the National Union of Teachers and Researchers (SNEC), was abducted by armed men at around 7 p.m. as he was returning home. The trade unionist was brutalised and threatened by unknown men. He filed a complaint with the police.

Violent attacks on workers

In May 2021 Sipho Shiba, a bus conductor based in Manzini, Eswatini, was assaulted by three police officers while taking part in a protest by public transport workers. A video clip was posted on social media showing the police officers hurling insults at the conductor and assaulting him, kicking him and using their fists. Mr Shiba was left with injuries to his ear and his left arm. On 2 June, the Royal Eswatini Police Service decided to suspend the three officers, pending disciplinary proceedings against them.

Murders

Workers were murdered in Eswatini, Lesotho and South Africa.

Murders

On 19 May 2021, Motselisi Manase, a woman factory worker, was fatally shot by police during protests over pay as violent clashes erupted between factory workers and police in Maseru, Lesotho. The strike started in mid-May 2021. Workers faced heavy repression from the police forces, who claimed that the strikers were “in contravention of Covid-19 regulations”. The police used water cannons and live rounds to disperse the strikers.

Murders

On 20 October 2021, Eswatini public sector and health workers marched to the Ministry of Justice to deliver a petition calling for a salary review, an end to the casualisation and privatisation of the public service and an end to attacks on trade unions. The protestors were met with tear gas and rubber bullets from police. Two buses ferrying public workers to the peaceful gathering were also stopped by the police and their passengers shot at with live bullets, and a student was killed by a stray bullet.

Murders

A bus driver was shot dead and another injured during clashes with police as drivers took part in a wage protest in the small town of Malkerns, Eswatini, on 13 October 2021. Further to the killing,transport workers joined in the wider protests in the country, calling for democratic reforms, and blocked several key roads across country. The following day, police shot and killed an individual at a roadblock in Mpaka town. On 20 October, security forces cracked down on protests in Mbabane and Manzini, killing one and injuring at least 80, including 30 by gunshot. The next day the government banned all protests and shut down the social media platform Facebook.

Murders

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.

People take to the streets in Burkina Faso to oppose the military takeover in January 2022. Since then, unions have been prevented from organising collective actions.Lambert Ouedraogo / Anadolu Agency via AFP

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