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January 2012, Week 2

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Tue, 10 Jan 2012 21:56:10 -0500
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Swaziland: Critics Want Coke d'état in the Country

By Simon Allison
allafrica.com
January 10, 2012

http://allafrica.com/stories/201201101101.html

Poor old Coca-Cola. The world's favourite drink can't do much
right these days. If it's not responsible for America's
obesity epidemic, then it's causing children's teeth to rot.
Or using up all of India's water while stealing Nigerian
jobs. But this latest accusation goes even further, claiming
Coke is responsible for propping up the authoritarian regime
of an entire country - and it refuses to do anything about
it.

That country is Swaziland, where Coca-Cola has its
concentrate manufacturing plant that exports all over
southern and eastern Africa.

Critics, led by the Swaziland Solidarity Network, claim Coca-
Cola alone accounts for up to 40% of Swaziland's GDP. This
number is probably a generous overestimate, but even if it's
just 20%-30%, it's still a hefty slug, without which the
nearly bankrupt government of King Mswati III would be
completely bankrupt.

And that is the critics' issue. By virtue of its economic
position, Coca-Cola is in a powerful position to influence
Swaziland's wayward king, Africa's last absolute monarch and
often criticised (with some justification) for using his
power for the good of himself rather than his people. But so
far, the corporation has remained determinedly apolitical,
confirming in a statement it has no intention of meddling in
a country's internal affairs.

A sensible position from a company looking to protect its
balance sheet, but one that doesn't correspond to recent
history. The only reason Coca-Cola is in Swaziland at all is
because it moved out of apartheid South Africa.

Although this only came after huge international pressure,
and only in 1987, it shows the company can be motivated by
political factors if the circumstances are compelling enough.

And with Swaziland's economy getting worse by the day, and
Mswati's inaction becomes more inexcusable, those
circumstances might be closer than we think. DM

[iMaverick is South Africa's first daily tablet newspaper and
includes coverage from the Daily Maverick and Free African
Media. To subscribe, go to: www.imaverick.co.za.]

Copyright © 2012 iMaverick. All rights reserved. Distributed
by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).

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