Trade Union Forum


General overview

The head of the country is the President. According to the Constitution of South Africa, the President directs the executive branch of the government, and is the commander-in-chief of the South Africa’s National Defense Force. The President is elected to a five-year term and may be re-elected to a second term. One person may not hold office for more than two terms. The candidate can be a South African citizen who is older than 30. The Parliament helps the President in the resolution of important state matters. The Parliament consists of two chambers – the National Council of Provinces (NCP), or upper house, and the National Assembly (NA), or lower house. As of 2021, the President of South Africa is Cyril Ramaphosa. State power is divided into legislative, executive, and judicial branches.

Constitutional order

South Africa is a democratic parliamentary and presidential republic. The main legal act of South Africa is the Constitution. The current Constitution was adopted by the Parliament in 1996 and it has been amended 16 times since. The Constitution guarantees all human rights, protection of human dignity and honor, and protects the rule of law.

The highest executive body is the Government, which is formed and headed by the President. By default, the Government serves for 5 years, but it directly depends on the Parliament: if both houses of Parliament are dissolved prematurely, the President and the Government also resign prematurely. In addition to the President and the Vice President, the Government consists of 28 ministers, who are appointed from among the members of Parliament. The Government implements national legislation, develops and implements national policies, coordinates the work of State ministries and administrations, and performs other functions as provided for in the Constitution.

The highest legislative body is the Parliament. The upper house consists of 90 and the lower house of 400 members. Members of the lower house are elected by popular vote by choosing a particular party. The most popular party of 2021 is the African National Congress (ANC). The party holds 60 seats in the upper house and 230 in the lower house. The Parliament develops and adopts laws. The lower house of the Parliament elects the President and monitors his and the Vice President’s actions. The upper house ensures that the rights and interests of the provinces are respected at the national level and discusses current matters with provincial representatives.

In South Africa, the judicial branch is represented by several types of courts and does not have a single highest body. The main courts for South Africa are Constitutional, Supreme Court of Appeal, and High Court of South Africa. Each court is independent and subjects exclusively to the law and the Constitution. The Constitutional Court resolves all issues related to the constitutional system of the State. Judges of the Constitutional Court are elected to a 12 years term. The court is headed by the Chief Justice of South Africa and his Deputy. It is the only court that can resolve disputes between State bodies and provinces regarding the Constitution, the powers or functions of any State body, as well as decide on the validity of any amendment to the Constitution, laws, or bills. The Supreme Court of Appeal is headed by the President and his Deputy. There also are 23 other judges. This Court has the power to review and override any decisions of the High Court. The decisions of the Court of Appeal are binding on all lower courts. The High Court of South Africa has nine divisions – one for each province. Each High Court has jurisdiction over people residing in a particular province. Cases considered in High Courts cannot be considered in any lower court.

Labor relations

Employment relations in South Africa are regulated by a number of regulations, namely: the Constitution, the Labor Relations Act of 1995, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act of 1997, the Employment Equity Act of 1998, the Skills Development Act of 1998, the Unemployment Insurance Act of 2001, the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1993 and the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act of 1993.

As of 2020, South Africa has ratified 27 ILO conventions, 24 of which remain in force.

Trade unions

Trade unions in South Africa are governed by the same laws that govern labor relations. As of 2021, there are 5 trade union federations in South Africa:

  • Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). The largest trade union federation in South Africa. It consists of 1,800,000 people and 21 trade union organizations. It is part of an alliance with the ANC and the South African Communist Party;
  • South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU). The second-largest trade union federation. It consists of 800,000 people and 21 trade union organizations;
  • Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA). The third-largest trade union federation in South Africa. The federation consists of 556,000 people and 20 trade union organizations;
  • National Council of Trade Unions (NACTU). The federation consists of 397,000 people and 20 trade union organizations;
  • Confederation of South African Workers' Unions (CONSAWU). The federation consists of 290,000 people and 19 trade union organization. The trade union associates itself with Christian democracy.