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Smith reports: "Mswati III has 13 wives and hosts an annual dance where he can choose a new bride from tens of thousands of bare-breasted virgins. With a fortune of about $100 million (£64 million), he presides over one of the worst-off countries in the world, with most people living in absolute poverty. Political parties are banned and activists are regularly arrested, imprisoned and tortured."

Swaziland's king, Mswati III, lords over a poverty-stricken country which serves as a hub for Coca-Cola's operations. (photo: AFP/Getty)
Swaziland's king, Mswati III, lords over a poverty-stricken country which serves as a hub for Coca-Cola's operations. (photo: AFP/Getty)

Coca-Cola Accused of Propping Up Notorious African Dictator

By David Smith, Guardian UK

03 January 12


Swaziland's King Mswati III accused by activists of human rights abuses and of looting national wealth

oca-Cola has been accused of propping up one of Africa's most notorious dictators.

The multibillion dollar beverage company owns a concentrate-manufacturing plant in Swaziland, an impoverished kingdom ruled by Africa's last absolute monarch, Mswati III.

The king has travelled to Coca-Cola's headquarters in Atlanta in the US, much to the disgust of Swazi political activists who blame him for human rights abuses and looting the nation's wealth.

Mary Pais Da Silva, co-ordinator of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign, called for Coca-Cola to pull out of the country immediately.

"Coca-Cola must know they're doing business with the wrong people," she said. "At the end of the day it doesn't benefit the economy in any way. Their profits don't help the average Swazi, while the king is getting richer by the day." She added: "The king is milking the country. This is entrenching him more and more, giving him economic strength to crush opposition. Nobody should do business with the regime in Swaziland. They should cut ties and take their business elsewhere."

Mswati III has 13 wives and hosts an annual dance where he can choose a new bride from tens of thousands of bare-breasted virgins.

With a fortune of about $100m (£64m), he presides over one of the worst-off countries in the world, with most people living in absolute poverty. Political parties are banned and activists are regularly arrested, imprisoned and tortured.

Coca-Cola says that Mswati III does not receive any profits or dividends from its Swaziland operation, its biggest in Africa. But some activists estimate that Coca-Cola, the world's biggest beverage company, contributes as much as 40% of the country's GDP. The company admits it cannot account for how the money it pays in taxes is used by the Swazi government.

Lucky Lukhele, a spokesman for Swaziland Solidarity Network, said: "Coca-Cola should find a way of directing the profits to the people of Swaziland. They should start supporting the pro-democracy movement."

He compared the moral imperative to that of boycotting South Africa during the racial apartheid years. "Many supported the people of South Africa. There is no such thing as neutral ground - you're for or against. The king is looting and destroying the economy. So either they support the people or they go into the dustbin of history along with the king."

He added: "It has become crazy in Swaziland. The people are desperate. They are dying from HIV/Aids and TB as the result of the misbehaviour of the king. There's enough evidence for the international criminal court to come in."

Coca-Cola says it adheres to the "highest ethical standards" and aims to be "an outstanding corporate citizen in every community we serve". It set up in Swaziland in 1987 after leaving apartheid South Africa.

It denies claims from some activists that it was motivated by Swaziland's sugarcane fields - its concentrates do not contain sugar - or that the king personally owns shares in the Swazi factory.

Sherree Shereni, spokeswoman for the Coca-Cola central Africa franchise, said: "King Mswati III does not receive any profits or dividends from Conco Swaziland [Coca-Cola's concentrate production plant]."

Conco, like all the Coca-Cola Company (TCCC) concentrate plants, is 100% owned by TCCC.

Shereni added: "Through the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, which was set up in Swaziland in 2001, the population of Swaziland has, however, benefited from Coca-Cola's contributions to their social welfare in the areas of water stewardship, health, education and entrepreneurship."

Asked if the king uses tax revenue from Coca-Cola for his personal benefit, Shereni said: "TCCC, like any other taxpayer, does not determine what the taxes paid to the governments of countries in which it does business are used for. This is the statutory prerogative of the governments themselves."

She added: "Coca-Cola is not involved with political agenda of any country in which it does business. Coca-Cola's reputation is built on the quality of its brands, the highest standards of manufacturing practices, the welfare and safety of its employees and adherence to local and international laws as applicable in any country where Coca-Cola does business." your social media marketing partner


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+29 # Tippitc 2012-01-03 22:37
Coke wise up - you can't really be that naive!! I am not buying it or your product!!
+21 # Futilitarian 2012-01-03 23:25
Quoting Tippitc:
Coke wise up - you can't really be that naive!! I am not buying it or your product!!

That's a loooonnnng way from the famous "I'd like to teach the world to sing" ad campaign, now isn't it? Boycott under way... They'll never miss me and you though... Who else is in?
+9 # shortonfaith 2012-01-03 23:00
I think the real crime here is Coca Cola is 40% of the country's GDP? Really, 40% of GPD? How much do they pay for a Coke? Not that the new Idi Amin of Africa is a good man. I haven't heard of him yet but I'll check into him now. What do you do with a country who's income is derived by 40%, of the taxes on Coca Cola syrup? These guys need a farm plan or a t-shirt factory. Something other than Coke syrup spilling out all over the countryside.
-2 # Glen 2012-01-04 07:45
The folks in that territory NEED the additional caffeine and sugar. Life is not that great. It is probably the only inexpensive lift they get during the day.

Coca Cola has represented the worst of what the U.S. offers for a long time. OK OK - McDonald's and cigarettes are rushing in to fill any void.
+2 # noitall 2012-01-04 12:24
GDP, Gross Domestic Product. They're selling their water, Coke is turning it into an unhealthy drink. They're not necessarily drinking Coke themselves. Mswati is selling his natural resource, water, to an outside corporation and pocketing the income. Its no different than oil, or any NR. The point is, the income isn't nationalized, it isn't going to the needs of the People or the country. Just like in Saudi Arabia and most of the countries that we have our claws into. Gadaffi was putting his oil profits into the needs of the country, look what happened to him. Venezuela, same thing, the clock is ticking there. Corporations don't care about the people or the country, they're just there for the water. Corporations can do that; they have no soul and they're aided and abetted by the US of A, us at the bottom line. They've sold out to the devil,in this case, his name is Mswate III and the Cola drinkers of the world.
+2 # Glen 2012-01-05 08:42
Mine was a sarcastic remark. Most U.S. citizens would be shocked, if they even cared, at the devastation caused by U.S. corporations. Thanks for bringing up the resources issue. That's a biggie. CALL IN THE U.S. MILITARY!
+6 # Archie1954 2012-01-03 23:51
I'll remember this article the next time I raise my Pepsi can.
+7 # CandH 2012-01-04 00:06
Geez, menace CC has got themselves all over the place. For instance, in the documentary The CocaCola Case, Columbian and Guatemalan bottling unionists are simply being killed to stop unionizing in the CC bottling plants. It's a process of elimination, just like the US United Fruit Company did in Guatemala, with the help of the CIA of course, decades before...
+8 # madp4400 2012-01-04 02:53
@ Tippitc.... There is nothing naive about Coke. They are one of the most diabolical greedy corps on the face of the earth. Ray Rogers is the director of the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke. His organization, Corporate Campaign, Inc., created the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke to hold The Coca-Cola Company, its bottlers and subsidiaries accountable and to end the gruesome cycle of violence and collaboration with paramilitary thugs, particularly in Colombia. These atrocities include the systematic intimidation, kidnapping, torture and murder of union leaders and members of their families in efforts to crush their unions. Coke may or may not have given the direct orders to these torturers and muderers but, they are the only ones to benefit from stopping unionization of their plants in south america and they have done nothing to stop it.

In countries like Colombia and Guatemala, a strong union can mean the difference between life and death for people who dare to challenge corporate and political abuses.

The Colombian union SINALTRAINAL credits the worldwide campaign against Coke's abuses as a major part of its struggle for survival and protecting the lives of many of its leaders and members.
0 # MidwestTom 2012-01-04 09:19
At least with no political parties you know that you have no power. Here we have 'for show' political parties who claim to represent the people, but they are both controlled by NYC crowd. I would rather have a President with 13 wives, than one who starts wars and sends our sins and daughters off to be killed in some war with no connection to us.
0 # Kootenay Coyote 2012-01-04 09:48
Big Business, as usual....
+2 # noitall 2012-01-04 12:12
So Coke is the bad guy now so we shift our loyalty to Pepsi...duhh! The bottled drink industry is a HUGE problem all over the world. Its about the water! Rip off a country for its water, sell it elsewhere (you'd be amazed of the # of gallons we're talking about here). That's just water; add sugar, flavoring, and color, bottling, litter, labor, and the problem is exacerbated. Now there's corn syrup and cane and other commodities and countries to be exploited and environments impacted and GMOs and "taste enhancers", etc., etc. Unhealthy drink addicts, get wise. Gain control of your local water source, get the industrial additives (flourides, etc.) out of it, control your watersheds and sources and protect from development and residential abuse, test your tap water, it's probably just fine, if not fix it. Learn to drink water, it's GREAT! What do you need, sexy ads?! This is the only long-term fix and is a beginning to the end of one of the main contributors to obesity, stomach, and other health disorders. We're not only addicted to oil; we're addicted to this crap! As with oil, our addictions to other's water and other natural resources impacts the world. Its not enough to address the problems with Coke, as is usual, most of the causes lie with US.
0 # marilynrssll 2012-01-05 00:54
FYI, I just watched a NetFlix movie: "Without the King" (about Swaziland). Very informative.

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