Coca-Cola has been accused of supporting the regime of Swaziland dictator King Mswati III.
The Swaziland Democracy Campaign, an organisation that aims to depose Africa’s last absolute monarch, has called on the multi-billion dollar drinks giant to pull out of the country immediately.
The U.S.-based beverage firm owns a manufacturing plant in Swaziland – its biggest facility in Africa.
Dictator: Coca-Cola has been accused of supporting the regime of Swaziland dictator King Mswati III
Mswati, who presides over one of the poorest nations in the world despite a personal wealth of £64million ($100million), has even visited Coca-Cola’s headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.
‘Coca-Cola must know they’re doing business with the wrong people,’ Swaziland Democracy Campaign spokersperson Mary Pais Da Silva told the Guardian.
‘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.
‘Nobody should do business with the regime in Swaziland.‘
Coca-Cola contributes up to 40 per cent of Swaziland’s gross domestic product, according to activists. The company says that Mswati doesn’t receive any profits from its factory in the country.
Lucky Lukhele, a spokesman for Swaziland Solidarity Network, said there ‘is no such thing as a middle ground’ and compared cooperating with Mswati’s regime to supporting apartheid in South Africa.
The drinks behemoth set up its Swaziland base in 1987 after abandoning apartheid South Africa.
Multi-billion firm: Mswati has even visited Coca-Cola’s headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia (pictured)
A spokeswoman for Coca-Cola last night said the firm adheres to the ‘highest ethical standards’.
Sherree Shereni said: ‘King Mswati III does not receive any profits or dividends from Conco Swaziland, Coca-Cola’s concentrate production plant.
‘Through the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, which was set up in Swaziland in 2001, the population of Swaziland has benefited from Coca-Cola’s contributions to their social welfare in the areas of water stewardship, health, education and entrepreneurship.’
Mswati’s lavish lifestyle has come under fire in recent months from campaigners who have demanded democracy in Swaziland.
The monarch currently rules his 1.2million subjects through informal discussion with the country’s cabinet, who he appoints himself.
But last year the authorities were forced to quell a string of protest against his autocratic rule.
Mswati, who was educated at Sherborne School in Dorset, has repeatedly refused to consider reform.
Political opposition parties in the country are banned and activists are routinely arrested or assaulted.
Despite the criticism of his rule, Mswati enjoys backing from neighbouring South Africa, who recently propped up the economy of its junior neighbour with a £215million loan.
Swaziland is a former British protectorate which gained independence in 1968. The vast majority of its citizens live in poverty.
The population has also been ravaged by Aids and has one of the highest rates of infection in the world.
Some studies have suggested that up to 40 per cent of the population could be living with the disease.