Business, Finance & Economics

Swaziland activists accuse Coca-Cola of supporting King Mswati III


Swaziland, with a stagnant economy, rampant poverty and a soaring HIV rate, has caught the Jasmine contagion. King Mswati III, pictured here in 2008, is one of the world's richest royals. Despite the unrest, he isn't expected to go the way of Mubarak or Ben Ali.


Paballo Thekiso

Swaziland pro-democracy activists are calling on Coca-Cola to withdraw its alleged support for King Mswati III, accusing the company of propping up his regime, the BBC reported.

Coca-Cola has owned a concentrate-manufacturing plant in Swaziland since 1987. The plant is Coca-Cola's biggest facility in Africa, after sanctions were imposed on South Africa. Some reports suggest that Coke accounts for about 40 percent of Swaziland’s income, which is currently suffering from a financial crisis, the BBC reported.

Now, activists are calling on Coke to stop its flow of support in the country, saying there is no difference between King Mswati’s government and the former apartheid regime in South Africa.

Read more at GlobalPost: Swaziland angry with King Mswati and his 13 wives (VIDEO)

"Coca-Cola must know they're doing business with the wrong people," said Mary Pais Da Silva, coordinator of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign, the Guardian reported. "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."

"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,” said Silva, the Guardian reported.

The Swaziland Democracy Campaign aims to depose Africa’s last absolute monarch, the Daily Mail reported.

King Mswati III has 13 wives and has a fortune of about $100 million, even though he presides over one of the poorest countries in the world, where most people live in absolute poverty, the Guardian reported. He holds an annual dance where he can choose a new bride from thousands of bare-breasted virgins.

Political parties and activists are often banned, and are regularly arrested, imprisoned and tortured, the Guardian reported.

Coca-Cola has said King Mswati doesn’t receive any dividends or profits from the multi-billion company, and that “the country enjoys many benefits from its presence,” the BBC reported. Coke did admit it isn’t able to account for how the money it pays in taxes is used by the government.

Read more at GlobalPost: Why is South Africa bailing out Swaziland?

Activist Lucky Lukehele told the BBC that Coca-Cola showed its support for the King recently, by taking out full-page advertisements in state-owned newspapers, wishing him a happy birthday.