Trade Unions in Southern Africa


According to Countryaah, Botswana is a country located in Southern Africa. Among miners and public employees, the union connection is good, but in the country as a whole, only about 20 percent of those who have a job in the union.

The right to strike is severely curtailed; i.a. a long mediation process must have been completed and failed before a legal strike can be declared. Strikes among teachers and in the diamond mines are considered dangerous to society and are forbidden. Police and the military are not allowed to organize.

In recent years, the union has worked with literacy campaigns together with other popular movements. It has strengthened the union in rural areas, but the union has relatively few resources and has always had a rather limited influence on Botswana’s community life. However, the union’s role has been strengthened somewhat in recent years.



The dominant trade union confederation is the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) is anslutent to world union, the International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC and the Organization of African Trade Union Unity, OATUU. BFTU has about 56,000 members, of which about 1/3 are women. The strongest is the Miners’Union, which has lost many members due to cuts and the Bankers’ Union. Many union leaders within the BFTU are involved in political parties, most in opposition parties. On several issues, there are sharp contradictions between the trade union movement and political power.

The Manual Workers’ Union (MWU) and the Botswana Public Employees Union have broken away from the BFTU and formed their own central organization, the Botswana Federation of Public Service Unions (BOFEPUSU). BFTU and BOFEPUSO are now collaborating on many issues.


Serious violations of trade union rights are common and trade unionists are harassed. Working conditions in the economic free zones can be compared to slave labor. It is illegal for government employees to join trade unions. Long and complicated procedures make it almost impossible to carry out a legal strike, but strikes do occur. Maseru is the biggest city of Lesotho.

Only just over 10 percent of the labor force in Lesotho is unionized, but affiliation with the union in the textile industry has increased in recent years.

The South African trade union movement plays a major role in the trade union movement in Lesotho. Overall, however, the trade union movement in Lesotho is weak and internal divisions have often been created by political forces outside the trade union movement.



There are several central organizations: Lesotho Labor Council, LLC with 18,706 members has been a member of the International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC since 2014.

The largest, however, is the Lesotho Congress of Democratic Unions, LECODU. Both LECODU and LLC are affiliated with the Organization of African Trade Union Unity, OATUU.


Namibia is one of 5 countries in Southern Africa. When Namibia gained its independence as the last country in Africa in 1991, the union was strongly linked to the then liberation movement SWAPO, now the party that won all the elections. However, support for SWAPO clearly decreased in the 2019 election.

The law’s rules for resolving disputes reflect a clear ambition to avoid open conflicts through negotiations and mediation, but strikes are still quite common. Employees in certain important community services, e.g. police, has no right to strike. By law, employees are entitled to 20 days’ holiday and a working week of 45 hours. Discrimination in working life is prohibited by law but occurs and has increased in recent years.

About 20 percent of the employees are unionized. Among miners, teachers, the connection rate is close to 90 percent, while it is very low among. for example farm workers.



In Namibia, there are three central trade unions:

The National Union of Namibian Workers, NUNW was formed in 1970 as part of the liberation movement SWAPO, South West Africa People’s Organiton. NUNW has 80,000 members, of which 25 percent are women, divided into eight unions that organize, among other things, food workers, miners, metalworkers, transport workers, public employees and domestic workers. The organization is affiliated to the Organization of African Trade Union Unity, OATUU, and since 2010 also to the World Trade Union,Int ernational Trade Union Confederation, ITUC.

The ties to SWAPO are still very strong. NUNW is strongly dependent on external assistance. The force is concentrated in some large workplaces. The Miners’ Union has demanded that raw materials be processed in the country to a greater extent. The Farmers’ Union has protested against the slow pace of implementation of the land reform.

Trade Union Congress of Namibia, TUCNA has 13 affiliates with a total of 30,000 members and is also affiliated with the ITUC. TUCNA is mainly affiliated with unions in the private sector, civil servants’unions and the teachers’ union.

There is a third central organization, the Namibia National Labor Organization, NANLO, which was formed as a breakaway organization from NUNW 2014. NANLO is not affiliated with the ITUC.


Although conditions have eased somewhat in recent years, Swaziland / Eswatini is ranked by the World Trade Union Confederation, ITUC, as one of the worst countries for workers; meetings are attacked by police, union leaders are arrested.

The degree of union organization is nevertheless high and a large proportion of those who work in agriculture are also union members. However, the collapse of the textile industry in the 2000’s has meant that the total number of members has decreased somewhat.

The union plays an important political role in the fight for democracy. Strikes and various trade union protests and actions occur frequently and to an increasing extent. The support from the international trade union movement and especially from the South African unions means a lot for the opportunity to conduct trade union activities. In 2019, the ITUC and COSATU protested against the police attacking striking officials with tear gas and firing sharply.



The two former central trade unions in the country; The central organization Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU) with 65,000 members and the more pro-government Swaziland Federation of Labor (SFL) with 11,000 merged in 2011 to form the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) which also includes the strong Teachers’ Union which was previously outside the central organizations joined. After strong international pressure, the authorities were finally forced to register TUCOSWA. The organization, which has 76,000 members, is affiliated to the International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC and recognized by the ILO.


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