U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Namibia

  Namibia is a functioning multiparty, multiracial democracy, whose Constitution contains an entrenched bill of rights providing for freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, and religion. The Government is headed by President Sam Nujoma, leader of the South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO), which won Namibia's first free elections in November 1989. While SWAPO enjoys majority control in both houses of Parliament, the multiparty opposition exercises its responsibilities freely and vigorously. The main security force is the Namibian Defence Force (NDF), comprising former troops of the People's Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN SWAPO's military wing) and the South West African Territorial Force (SWATF) that battled each other prior to independence. NDF and police members were accused, and in some cases convicted, of crimes against civilians during the year. The Namibian economy has two major components, a modern market sector that produces most of its wealth and a traditional subsistence agricultural sector (mainly in the north) that supports most of its labor force. Mining, ranching, and fishing, the mainstays of the market sector, are still largely controlled by white Namibian businessmen. The Government continued to stress the leading role of the private sector and encouraged new investments by indigenous and foreign entrepreneurs on the basis of the investment code adopted in December 1990. Namibians enjoy a wide range of civil, political, and economic liberties. Controversy continued, however, over SWAPO's incomplete accounting for missing detainees formerly held in Angola and Zambia during the preindependence period. The Government's restrictive policies on refugees and the alleged forced deportations of asylum seekers were also criticized. Preindependence problems of racial discrimination and disparities especially in education, health, employment, and working conditions continued in 1993, despite efforts by Government to reduce inequities. While the Constitution prohibits discrimination based on race and other factors, a number of apartheid-based laws related to areas such as property, business, and labor, dating from before independence, have not yet been repealed or replaced and remain valid. Limited measures were taken to try to reduce societal violence and other discrimination against women, but serious inequities remained. A number of police and defense force members were charged, convicted, and dismissed from service for criminal offenses against civilians, including murder, assault, and theft but there continued to be instances of such abuses.


Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial killings during 1993. Several cases of political killings which occurred prior to independence, including that of SWAPO activist Anton Lubowski, who was assassinated in Windhoek in September 1989, remained unsolved. The confidential police investigation into Lubowski's killing, completed in May 1993, was passed to the magistrate's court for inquest proceedings, which had not taken place by year's end. A local newspaper alleged, however, that high-ranking officials of the preindependence police and military forces planned his killing. The officers named in the allegation have brought court action against the newspaper under libel laws.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances occurring during 1993. Nevertheless, attention continued to be focused on the disappearances of persons detained by SWAPO prior to independence. The number of SWAPO detainees still unaccounted for ranges from 154 to 256. Controversy surrounding this issue is likely to continue until the Government conducts and releases the results of a full investigation. In June the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) issued its final report on its tracing efforts, which ran from November 1991 to April 1993. The ICRC noted that SWAPO responded to only a small fraction of the ICRC's inquiries during that period and urged family members to approach SWAPO directly for additional information. Another outstanding issue is whether persons deemed responsible for past human rights abuses would be held legally accountable and whether current government officials credibly linked to serious human rights abuses in the preindependence period should be permitted to remain in office.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution states that "no persons shall be subject to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment." However, there were over 20 allegations of torture or other abusive treatment by police and security forces during 1993. These incidents were all highly publicized locally. Controversy erupted in March when Simon Ananias, a NDF member convicted of the murder of a 10-year-old boy in Rehoboth in 1990, was released under a presidential pardon. Ananias had served only 4 months of a 10-year sentence at the time of the pardon. Opposition political parties and the press criticized the fact that of over 500 prisoners released at the same time, Ananias was the only one convicted of a violent crime. In April a former SWAPO detainee alleged that he was stopped by a joint police/NDF patrol in Windhoek after his vehicle ran out of gas. The individual alleged he was singled out for questioning after being recognized as a former detainee, forced into a police van, blindfolded, and taken to an unknown location, where he was severely beaten and interrogated about his loyalties to the SWAPO Party. He was detained in the city jail overnight on drunk driving charges before being released the following day. The individual subsequently filed charges against the police and the NDF and is being represented by the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC). Senior government officials claimed, however, that the individual's injuries were sustained in an ongoing altercation at the time of police arrival. The case was pending in the courts as the year ended. In another case, three NDF members carried out the unprovoked beating of a farming couple near the northern town of Outjo in late June, using a tire iron and empty bottle. The three soldiers were arrested and charged with assault by the civilian courts. The case had not yet come to court by the end of the year. In September a female refugee at the Osire camp formally charged a police official with assault, torture, and degrading treatment. She also alleged that at least two police and camp officials knew of male refugees raping women in the camps and allowed the crimes to continue unabated and without official intervention. The National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) agreed to press her case in court. She has since left Namibia, and court authorities are unable to prosecute the case without her participation. Other refugees also said they were reluctant to report cases of mistreatment by police and camp officials because they feared alleged "troublemakers" would be arbitrarily deported.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution forbids arbitrary arrest or detention, and the Government has generally respected these provisions. According to the Constitution, persons who are arrested must be informed of the reason for their arrest "promptly in a language they understand," and they must be brought before a magistrate within 48 hours of their detention. A trial must take place within "a reasonable time," or the accused must be released. The accused are entitled to defense by a legal counsel of their choice; the state provides a lawyer for the indigent. Some traditional leaders, however, reportedly continued to detain and imprison persons accused of minor offenses without recourse to police or judicial review. The Government repeatedly condemned these actions and called upon the public to report such practices to the authorities. It also undertook to train traditional leaders in the constitutional exercise of their powers. There were no reports of Namibians being exiled for political reasons in 1993.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Namibia has an independent judiciary. Under the Constitution all citizens have the right to a fair trial, and this right is afforded in practice. Namibia has retained the Roman-Dutch court system it inherited from South Africa, while also maintaining a traditional court system. The formal system has three levels: magistrate's court, the High Court, and the Supreme Court. The last also serves as the court of appeals and as a constitutional review court. The tenure of sitting judges was not affected by the 1990 change of government. Traditional courts have long dealt with minor criminal offenses, such as petty theft and infractions of local customs, among members of the same ethnic group. A special presidential commission, created in 1991 to make recommendations on the prospective jurisdiction of traditional courts, presented its findings to the President in April. It concluded that traditional cultural practices and structures should be maintained, provided they were consistent with constitutional protections and existing laws. Enabling legislation was drafted in late 1993 with respect to the powers, duties, and functions of traditional leaders, and the establishment of "community courts" to bridge the existing gap between traditional and magistrates' courts. This legislation had not yet been presented to Parliament as the year ended. The Constitution provides guarantees that persons claiming that their fundamental rights have been violated may seek redress in court and request free legal advice from the ombudsman. The lack of sufficient, qualified magistrates, however, continued to exacerbate the backlog of cases awaiting trial. Other delays resulted from the lack of legal counsel fewer than 100 lawyers were engaged in private practice in Namibia in 1993; fewer than 10 of these were black. The Government appointed the first public defender in July and provided renewed funding under its legal aid scheme to permit indigent defendants equal access to legal representation. During the year, the Government, in conjunction with the University of Namibia, also established a "Justice Training Centre," which is to provide additional legal training to magistrates and community court officials.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The Constitution provides all citizens with the right to privacy and requires arresting officers to secure a judicial warrant for certain listed offenses before conducting a search. These rights were respected in practice.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for these fundamental freedoms, including academic freedom in institutions of higher learning, and states that these rights may not be suspended except in time of war or during a state of emergency. In practice, these freedoms are respected. The government-owned Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) operates virtually all radio and television services. A broadly representative government-appointed board sets policy for the NBC. Although the NBC routinely gave prominent coverage to the activities of government officials, it also provided significant coverage to the opposition and viewpoints critical of the Government. During the year, an independent media board was established to review applications and award radio and television licenses to private companies. One such "community radio station" was established in Windhoek in 1993 and began broadcasting. Print journalism in Namibia remained free and vigorous. During the year, four dailies, two biweeklies, and three weekly newspapers of general interest were published. There was no apparent self-censorship by journalists, aside from the constraints of libel and pornography laws. There were no restrictions on academic freedom.

b. Freedom of Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly and association. During 1993, various organizations, including political parties and religious groups, held large meetings and public gatherings without interference. Police permits are required for large, publicized public gatherings, and there was no indication that any such permit requests were denied. Other spontaneous public gatherings, including protests to local governments over inadequate police protection against criminals, particularly thieves and cattle rustlers, took place without incident.

c. Freedom of Religion

There is no state religion and no restrictions on the activities of particular religious groups or on foreign clergy members.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Constitution guarantees the rights to move freely throughout Namibia, to reside and settle in any part of the country, and to leave and return. These rights are respected in practice. Nevertheless, the local press, local nongovernmental organizations (NGO's), and opposition political parties repeatedly criticized the Government's handling of citizenship and refugee issues. Much of the criticism focused on the lack of a consistent refugee or asylum policy. At midyear, the Cabinet recommended that the Government accede to the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol, and the 1969 Organization of African Unity (OAU) Convention, as had been urged by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and local human rights organizations. Legislation to this effect is expected to be considered in Parliament for debate and enactment in early 1994. The Government expressed prior reservations, however, over Article 26 of the 1951 Convention (concerning freedom of movement and residence). Such reservations effectively kept virtually all refugees, including 519 of the total of 569 recognized by both the Government and UNHCR, at the Osire refugee camp, located in a remote area some 120 miles northeast of Windhoek. Refugees are prohibited from working outside the refugee camp. Those discovered to be working were arrested for immigration violations. The only exception to the requirement to reside at Osire involved beneficiaries of UNHCR scholarships, who could reside and study at the University of Namibia in Windhoek. The NSHR and opposition political parties alleged that a number of persons seeking refugee status were deported or jailed under ordinary immigration law upon their arrival in Namibia. These reports, involving as many as 100 people, could not be independently substantiated. An interministerial government committee reviews refugee and asylum claims on a case-by-case basis. Between January and September 1993, this committee reviewed 67 cases, and 5 candidates had been accepted as refugees. Six cases were denied, while 56 were still pending final determinations in late 1993. Opposition parties accused the security forces of abducting several dozen Namibian citizens and residents and delivering them to Angola for conscription into that country's armed forces. The Government stated that only undocumented Angolan nationals were involved, all of whom had agreed to return to Angola. Because the Angola/Namibia border is relatively open and arbitrarily divides several ethnic groups, there is often confusion as to who is "Angolan" and who is "Namibian". Repatriation from Botswana of the descendants of Herero speakers who fled Namibia during the 1904-07 war against the Germans commenced in mid-1993. Approximately 1,600 persons had entered the country by mid-September. Under this program, several thousand persons may ultimately resettle in Namibia with government assistance and obtain Namibian citizenship.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

The Constitution stipulates the right of citizens to change their government, and this right is enjoyed in practice. All adult Namibians are able to participate in the political process. The Constitution established a bicameral Parliament and provides for free general elections by secret ballot every 5 years and regional elections every 2 years. National elections held in 1989 and 1992 were characterized as generally free and fair. Seven political parties are represented in the National Assembly. The SWAPO-led Government has 45 of the 78 seats and the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA), the major opposition party, holds 21 seats. Five small parties are also represented. The DTA, together with the other non-SWAPO parties in Parliament, can block constitutional changes, which require a two-thirds majority of all members. The National Council, the upper house of Parliament, consists of 19 SWAPO members and 7 DTA representatives. Women have become increasingly involved in the political process. Three women hold positions at the cabinet or subcabinet level. Several women hold seats in the Parliament. Women's groups are active in civic and political activities.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

Local organizations such as the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) and the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) operated freely, criticizing the Government's handling of the SWAPO detainee issue, the treatment of refugees, misconduct by members of the police and defense forces, and other matters. The LAC, which also focused on legal education and women's rights, continued to work with the Ministry of Education and Culture in developing a constitutional curriculum for schools and offered lectures on human rights issues for police cadets and defense force trainees. International human rights organizations were free to travel to Namibia and discuss human rights issues with governmental and nongovernmental representatives.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status


Women's rights are protected by the Constitution, but discrimination against women, stemming from pervasive cultural and traditional practices of all races, persisted. Several women's groups continued to seek an end to these inequalities and took particular exception to the fact that men are not required to provide economic support for their children in case of divorce, resulting in many indigent single mothers. Government leaders were sympathetic but had not introduced necessary amending legislation in Parliament by year's end. During 1993, the traditional leaders of several indigenous ethnic groups stated that they would honor a nonbinding parliamentary resolution condemning the traditional practice of family members confiscating property and other assets of deceased men from their widows and children. Nevertheless, residual inequalities in the law and in education and employment opportunities continued. For example, a woman is considered a ward of her father until she marries, at which time she becomes a ward of her husband. Any property brought into a marriage by a woman is transferred to the ownership of her husband, who has the authority to decide its disposition without her consent. Under existing community property laws, married women of all groups are defined as legal minors and need written consent of the husband before they may legally acquire or purchase property or enter into a legal contract. Women were not barred from pursuing higher education but, due to prevailing social norms, remained primarily in the clerical, secretarial work, teaching, medical, and domestic service fields. Violence against women remained widespread, particularly physical beating and rape. Because of traditional attitudes regarding the subordination of women, many cases of spousal assault were not reported to the authorities. Women's groups and other women's rights advocates claim that police do not seriously pursue cases of spousal rape and assault, stating that they preferred not to interfere in domestic disputes. These groups also noted that prosecutions of and convictions for rape are rare. In September a man was sentenced to 5 years' imprisonment for murdering his common-law wife. In the widely publicized verdict, the judge said a wife was not her husband's property. In July the Namibian police opened a Women and Child Abuse Centre in Windhoek, with specially trained female officers to assist victims of sexual assaults.


Children's rights are enumerated and guaranteed in Article 15 of the Constitution. In practice, the Government has committed as many resources as its limited means allow for the protection of children's welfare. In 1993 the Government allocated 29 percent of its total budget (approximately $250 million) to education and other significant amounts to health and school feeding programs. The police and courts vigorously prosecuted cases involving crimes against children, particularly rape and incest. These issues were also discussed in printed material given wide distribution in Namibian schools. The Women and Child Abuse Centre" (see above) also assisted in reducing the trauma suffered by abused children and in training police officials to handle this problem sensitively.

Indigenous People

The Government continued to promote the civil, political, and economic rights of the indigenous majority of Namibians, who were deprived of land and many other rights during the recently ended colonial era. It has implemented affirmative action and other programs to provide equal education and employment opportunities to all of its citizens. The San people, Namibia's earliest inhabitants, have also been traditionally exploited by other indigenous ethnic groups. The Government has endorsed the San's rights to land and traditional land-use patterns and supported the first regional meeting of Southern Africa's indigenous San, held in 1993. The Ministry of Education and Culture also worked with the Nyae Nyae Development Foundation, a local NGO, to ensure that primary school teaching materials took San cultural sensitivities into account. During 1993, the Government (encouraged by members of the indigenous majority) also confirmed the principle that indigenous traditional cultural practices, including the dispensation of justice, allocation of communally held lands, and selection of leaders, were permissible, provided they were not in conflict with the country's Constitution. Nonetheless, many indigenous Namibians were unprepared to exercise fully their civil and political rights as a result of their historically minimal access to education and economic opportunities under South African rule, coupled with their relative isolation in remote farming areas.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The Constitution prohibits discrimination based on race and other factors and specifically prohibits "the practice and ideology of apartheid." As a result of many years of South African administration, racial and ethnic discrimination were institutionalized in Namibian society and racial discrimination continues. Many apartheid-based statutes which predate Namibia's independence remain valid until repealed or replaced by the Parliament. Nonwhites complained that the Government was not moving quickly enough to mitigate the continuing and serious inequalities in education, health, housing, employment, and use of public accommodations. Although several racial and ethnic groups charged the Government with bias toward the numerically dominant Ovambo ethnic group, these claims could not be objectively substantiated. Some Afrikaans speakers alleged that the Government's policy of using English as the medium of instruction in schools violated their "cultural rights." In addition, leaders of the "Baster" community in Rehoboth alleged that the Government had unconstitutionally appropriated communal lands at independence. These charges were pursued through the courts, which had not yet rendered decisions as of late in the year.

People with Disabilities

There were no reports of official discrimination on the basis of disability. With limited financial resources, the Government attempted to provide the disabled with treatment and education. Several local NGO's also were active in helping the disabled to become more socially and economically self-sufficient. Although the Government did not require special access to public buildings for the disabled, some municipal governments, including those of Windhoek and Swakopmund, have installed ramps and special curbing at street crossings for the disabled.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

Namibia's Constitution provides for freedom of association, including freedom to form and join trade unions, a right that was extended to public servants, farm workers, and domestic employees under a comprehensive labor law. Trade unions have no difficulty registering, and there are no government restrictions on who serves as a union official. No union has been dissolved by government action. Unions are independent of government and may form federations and confederations, of which two are significant. The principal trade union organization is the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW), a SWAPO-aligned federation of 7 industrial unions with 70,000 members. Most workers in the mining industry, the country's key export sector, are members of the NUNW-affiliated Mineworkers Union of Namibia (MUN). The principal public service and construction unions are affiliates of the Namibia People's Social Movement (NPSM), formerly known as the Namibian Christian Social Trade Unions Confederation. There are also several independent trade unions. The bulk of the trade union movement maintains close affiliation to SWAPO and the Government. Several prominent NUNW officials serve on SWAPO's Central Committee, and union leaders have served in the National Assembly. The NPSM and other independent unions claim to be nonpartisan and in practice confine their activities to labor-management relations. Roughly half of the wage sector is organized to some degree, although many workers within this group are only employed part-time. Less than 20 percent of those wage earners employed full-time are organized, and few rural laborers are organized. Namibian workers, except for those providing essential services (e.g., jobs related to public health and safety), enjoy the right to strike, once conciliation procedures have been exhausted. The Labor Act extended the right to strike to public servants, farm workers, and domestics. Under the Act, strike action can only be used in disputes involving worker interests, such as pay raises. Disputes over worker rights, including dismissals, must be referred to the Labor Court (which has yet to be established) for arbitration. The Labor Act also led to the creation of the Office of the Labor Commissioner, which mediates nonjudicial solutions to labor disputes arising among workers, employers, and government. Legally striking workers also gained protection from unfair dismissal under the Labor Act. An "unfair dismissal" is defined as one in which a "valid or fair reason" for termination or dismissal is "not in compliance with fair procedure." Because by year's end no one had yet challenged a dismissal as unfair under the law, it is unclear what "unfair" means in practice. Since independence, work stoppages over pay, dismissal, and pension issues have been relatively common, with most actions lasting 1 day or less. Job actions of this type have occurred less frequently within the past year. However, in November Namibia witnessed its longest strike since independence, the 2-week work stoppage at Consolidated Diamond Mines (CDM) in Oranjemund. The strike began on November 15 after negotiations between CDM management and the Mineworkers' Union of Namibia (MUN) over an increase in pay ended in stalemate. Initially, CDM offered an 8.5 percent basic increase, while the MUN had demanded 15 percent. From the outset, the work stoppage was acrimonious, and there were several reported injuries on the picket lines when nonunion CDM workers and the striking mine workers confronted each other. Several days into the strike, negotiations stalled as charges of "illegal picketing" and "assault" were raised by CDM, while the union contended that the mine was hiring on a new, "strike breaking" work force. CDM also insisted that its workers in essential services be allowed to cross picket lines. From the mine's perspective, essential services included such areas as public health and safety, food preparation, and basic operation of the mine's infrastructure and utilities. The union countered that management's definition of "essential" was too encompassing, although the two sides ultimately compromised. The strike, which involved 3,500 workers and idled 5 on-shore mining facilities, was finally settled on November 29, when the parties agreed to a 10-percent wage increase for union members. The work stoppage was costly for all concerned, in terms of lost profits, wages, and revenue to the Government. Yet in spite of the apparent costs, the protracted strike was viewed by many as a major test case for the interpretation of Namibia's 1992 Labor Act. These sentiments were summed up by one union leader as follows: "It seems that the (Labor) Act has got a lot of loopholes. On face value, the Act appears to favor the union but in practice it does not, nor does it favor the company." Labor Ministry officials announced in late December that the Government will introduce legislation in 1994 to clarify certain provisions of the Labor Act, particularly those relating to overtime and essential services. Trade unions are free to exchange visits with foreign trade unions and to affiliate with international trade union organizations. The unions have exercised this freedom without interference.

b. The Right To Organize and Bargain Collectively

The 1992 Labor Act guarantees employees the right to bargain individually or collectively. Collective bargaining is not widely practiced outside the mining and construction industries; wages are usually set by employers. As unions become more active, however, informal collective bargaining is becoming more common. The Labor Act provides a process for employer recognition of trade unions and protection for members and organizers. The law also empowers the Labor Court to remedy unfair labor practices and explicitly forbids unfair dismissals, which can also be brought on appeal to the Labor Court. When a dispute cannot be resolved directly, the first recourse is to a conciliation board, with a mediator and representatives from both sides. The Office of the Labor Commissioner plays an integral role. Conciliation boards have been used mostly in wage disputes and, to a lesser extent, to negotiate working conditions, overtime hours, and reinstatements of dismissed employees. In almost all cases in which conciliation boards have been convened, the disputes were settled. If, however, agreement cannot be reached via the current conciliation board route, the aggrieved parties have the option to strike, stage a brief protest walkout, or return to work (or continue to seek a solution via the conciliation board). Furthermore, the (current) law is not clear on what the parties in a dispute should do in instances in which they are not granted access to a conciliation board by the Labor Commissioner. The Government is considering district labor courts as an alternate venue for the resolution of disputes. Yet, even with the new Act, business-labor relations remain, for the most part, strained. The unions appear to have little effective control over the mass of semiorganized, mostly black, urban unskilled workers, who are frustrated with the vestiges of the apartheid system which remain from the preindependence period. The only export processing zone (EPZ) is located in Arandis, where special tax incentives are available for export-oriented industrial developments. The Government has no plans to suspend the provisions of the Labor Act in the EPZ as a means of attracting foreign investment.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced labor is prohibited by law. Although there were no formal complaints filed with the Ministry of Labor in 1993, there were continuing reports that farm workers sometimes receive inadequate compensation for their labor and are subject to strict control by farm owners. There were also reports in previous years of some farm workers being subjected to physical punishment by their employers. Farm workers experienced great difficulties in gaining recognition of their working rights, due to the isolation of many rural areas and the resulting obstacles to organizing trade unions. Moreover, it is sometimes difficult for Ministry of Labor inspectors to gain access to Namibia's expansive, privately owned commercial farms in order to document possible Labor Code violations. There have also been reports that Namibian crews on fishing vessels have been required to work excessive hours without proper compensation or time off.

d. Minimum Age of Employment for Children

Under the 1992 Labor Act, the absolute minimum age for employment was 14 years, with higher requirements for certain sectors, such as 16 years for mining, manufacturing, and construction, 17 for underground work, and 18 for night work. Age regulations under previous legislation were generally enforced. However, children below the age of 14 often work on family and commercial farms and in the informal sector. Boys in the rural areas traditionally start herding livestock at age 7. The Labor Act empowers Ministry of Labor inspectors to enforce the prohibitions on child labor. Once they become established, the labor courts will be able to hear criminal charges against violators.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is no statutory minimum wage law in Namibia. The Labor Act provides for wage commissions to consider proposals for sectoral or geographical minimum wages. Unskilled workers in the relatively well-paid mining sector earn about twice the amount earned by urban unskilled laborers. Domestic workers earn much less. In Windhoek's nonwhite townships, workers and their families have difficulty maintaining a minimally decent standard of living. White Namibians earn significantly more on average than their black compatriots, in large part because whites own most of the country's productive resources and had preferential access to education that enabled them to take advantage of the skilled labor shortage. Moreover, under the preindependence apartheid system, even qualified nonwhites were often barred from skilled jobs or did not receive equal pay for equal work. The Government is aggressively attempting to address this problem through affirmative action hiring policies. The standard legal workweek since independence was reduced from 46 to 45 hours, including at least one 24-hour rest period per week. No more than 10 hours per week of overtime may be required by an employer. The law mandates 24 consecutive days of annual leave, at least 30 workdays of sick leave per year, and 3 months of unpaid maternity leave. In practice, however, these provisions are not yet rigorously observed or enforced. Government-mandated occupational health and safety standards are set by law, and the Labor Act empowers the President to strengthen these standards by issuing applicable regulations and enforce them through inspections and criminal penalties. The Government has carried out a national survey of health and safety standards but has yet to release any report or upgrade standards. The law requires employers to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of their employees and provides for the right to remove oneself from dangerous work situations. According to the Chamber of Mines, safety campaigns by the mining companies have reduced the combined reportable injury and fatality rate per 1,000 employees from 6.3 in 1980 to 3.5 in 1991. Although the MUN has frequently criticized Rossing Uranium's safety record, the company has consistently received high ratings from the British Safety Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Overall, working conditions remained poor for employees in agriculture.

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