Swaziland: Coca-Cola Abandons Swazi Farmers

Coca-Cola has denied that it intends to take any lead in protecting the rights of farmers and workers in Swaziland from land-grabbing.

This follows global reports that the international drinks company had promised to stop all business dealings with subsidiaries that were involved in land grabs, where land is taken from poor people in developing countries without their consent.

Coca-Cola, under its Swazi subsidiary Conco, produces drinks concentrate using sugar. It makes up as much as 40 percent of the Swaziland's gross domestic product (GDP), but it is said to be exempt from paying full taxes.

In Swaziland, King Mswati III, who rules as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, controls all publically-owned land, and his chiefs do his bidding in ejecting people from the land they live on and cultivate if they disobey him or them in any way.

Manqoba Khumalo, General Manager of Conco Limited (trading as Coca-Cola Swaziland), told the Sunday Observer, a newspaper in Swaziland in effect owned by King Mswati, that Coca-Cola was taking a leadership role across the world in protecting land rights of farmers and communities, but this did not apply to Swaziland.

Khumalo told the newspaper that Coca-Cola was targeting 'top' markets and Swaziland has not been taken into consideration. 'Our plan to address the land rights issue starts with the assessment of our top markets and outlines concrete actions in support of sustainable agricultural practices around the world.'

Khumalo also denied that Coca-Cola influenced King Mswati and the way he ruled his kingdom.

Asked by the Observer, 'Does royalty benefit in any way from Coca-Cola's operations in Swaziland?' he responded, 'No'.

He added, 'Coca-Cola has not provided any personal gifts to either the King or his family beyond customary gifts presented at local ceremonies.'

Coca-Cola's role in Swaziland has been under scrutiny for many years. Swaziland has been indebted to Coca-Cola ever since it allowed the company to use it in its fight against workers' interests in other countries. In 2009, Coca-Cola closed its concentrate supply plant in Nigeria, citing an 'unfriendly manufacturing environment' in that country.

Original news link is here.


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