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Coca-Cola in African human rights charges

Jan. 2, 2012 at 6:57 PM

MBABANE, Swaziland, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Political activists accuse The Coca-Cola Co. of supporting King Mswati III of Swaziland, who they say routinely imprisons and tortures political opponents.

Coca Cola owns a concentrate-manufacturing plant in Swaziland, a landlocked kingdom in southern Africa controlled by Mswati -- who succeeded his father as king in 1986. Mswati has amassed a personal fortune estimated at $100 million in a nation where poverty is widespread and political parties are barred. Mswati has been to Coca-Cola's Atlanta headquarters, to the displeasure of activists who accuse him of violating human rights and looting Swaziland, Britain's The Guardian said Monday.

Mary Pais Da Silva, coordinator of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign, says the company "must know they're doing business with the wrong people," and should withdraw from Swaziland immediately.

"At the end of the day it doesn't benefit the economy in any way," she said. "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," Da Silva said.

Sherree Shereni, spokeswoman for the Coca-Cola central Africa franchise, said Swaziland's concentrate-manufacturing plant is wholly owned by the Coca-Cola Co. and Mswati doesn't receive any profits from it.

She said the company, "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."

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