Right to Organise Timeline 1500-1994

This period is marked by the advent and growth of the Atlantic Slave Trade affecting West Africa, Central and East Africa. On the Southern African sub continent, it is Angola that is reputed to have been devastated by the Atlantic Slave Trade.
With the Colonial administrations facing a labour shortage due to Khoi reluctance to work for them, they turned to importation of slaves from other colonies. This was particularly true of the earlier Dutch settlements at the Cape.
The advent of the British Colonial administration at the Cape was marked by a number of legal measures aimed at regulating the movement of the Khoi and tying them to prolonged periods of labour on settler farms. One of these measures was Governor Caledon’s "Hottentot" Code of 1809.
Ordinance No. 50 of 1828 repealed the Caledon Code, giving greater freedom of movement to the Khoi and manumitted slaves. This led to the establishment of the Kat River Settlement, which was to become a focal point of the next outbreak of dissent related to working conditions.
1840s and 1850s
The shrinking hunting frontier in Pedi territories forced many young men into migrant labour. Many Pedi young men, at the behest of their chiefs, are encouraged to travel to the Eastern Cape to work as migrants in the region’s commercial farms. This marks the beginning of migrant labour for Pedi young men. They are reputed to have acquired firearms with their income, instructed their by their chiefs whose societies were threatened by expanding European settlements. 
The period is marked by the mergence of a servile class known as the "oorlams" or "inboekselings". These are mainly labourers in the Boer settlements that spread in the interior of South Africa, particularly in areas that were to become the Boer Republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. 
The Kat River Rebellion - At different times the Khoi were subjected to various forms of forced labour by successive Colonial administrations at the Cape Colony. Their response generally was to migrate further into the interior, settling in what has become known as the Northern Cape. The Khoi also took part in numerous rebellions as a response to forms of coerced labour by Colonial administrations. The most notable of these was the Kat River rebellion, which broke out in 1850 and became indistinguishable from the eight frontier war.
The Xhosa cattle killing
The catastrophe that befell the Xhosa following the decimation of their livestock and the destruction of crops led to unprecedented levels of poverty that forced the Xhosa into labour in the Colony.
1860 - 1870s
The discovery of diamond attracts many to the diamond fields of Kimberley and Griqualand West. Some of the Pedi young men then make their way to the diamond fields, where salaries were considered higher than on the farms. They are followed shortly by migrants from Mozambique, notably the Chopi from the south of that country.
The Tswana and the Griqua, forced off the diamondiferous lands, first resist annexation of their territories before being subdued and forced to work in the mines as labourers. Some manage to resist the lure of wage labour by becoming sharecroppers and supplying the mines fresh produce or acting as transport operators.
The discovery of gold merely accelerates the rate at which migrants leave their rural locations and head for the mines as labourers. This becomes particularly true of most if not all rural areas of Southern Africa.
Acute labour shortage on the gold mines prompted mine owners to import Chinese miners from China in 1904. But in 1910, following pressure from white miners, the importation of miners from China ceased, and those still employed were being laid off.
The transition to Deep level mining threw up numerous challenges related to the availability of labour and profitability of the mines. It is during this period that recruitment of Africans from adjacent rural areas intensified. And as more Africans made their way to the mines in search of employment, white workers were increasingly being alarmed at the prospects of losing jobs to Africans. It is this that leads to the passage of measures intended to make jobs in the mines safe for white miners.
This Act provided for the reservation of certain jobs in the mining industry and in railways for whites. It was further strengthened by its amendment sponsored by the PACT government of the National Party and the Labour Party in 1926. 
In an attempt to cut down on labour costs, mine owners showed a propensity to increase the numbers of Black miners over their white counterparts. This led to the outbreak of the Rand Revolt of 1922.
This period is marked by the ascendancy of the PACT government, a collaboration of the National Party of Hertzog and the Labour Party under Cresswell. Their concern for the protection of white workers against competition from Blacks, especially in the mining sector, ensured that they passed legislation that marginalized Black workers.
The period saw the emergence of the first Black Trade Union, the Industrial Commercial Workers’ Union (ICU) under Clemens Kadalie. The ICU started as union organizing dockworkers in Cape Town. By the middle of the 1920s, it had spread to other parts of the country, including in rural areas where it organized farm workers and sharecroppers.
Masters & Servants Amendment Act: This gave farmers extended legal powers over their tenants
Council for Non European Trade Unions (CNETU) became particularly active in the growing manufacturing sector. Its affiliate, the African Mineworkers Union (AMU) went on a historic strike in 1946 reputed to have been a key factor in the coming of Apartheid.
Africans were not allowed to work in the construction industry. So, African labour could not be used for the construction of houses that would enable the government to provide low cost houses for the growing African urban population.
During this period the Apartheid government passed a range of laws that prevented Blacks from bargaining with employers through negotiations. These laws remained in place until repealed following recommendations by the Wiehan Commission at the end of the 1970s.
Labour formations in South Africa were seen as an extension of resistance led by the ANC and PAC. Consequently, the most active union federation, the South African Council of Trade Unions (SACTU) was banned along with the ANC for much of the 1960s and 1970s.
The first direct labour protest breaks out in Durban. This was followed by increased resistance in other sectors, i.e, the Soweto Revolt and other forms of protest.
With the Wiehan Commission’s recommendations being adopted, trade unionism reappeared as an instrument of resistance in South Africa. COSATU was established in 1985. By then National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) had been in existence for a number of years.  
COSATU intensified shop floor struggles as civic unrest increased both in intensity and frequency throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
1994 and beyond
COSATU is a strategic partner in the tripartite alliance including the ANC and SACP. It continues to play a pivotal role in workers struggles against employers, including mobilizing civil servants.