Stop Coca-Cola bullying South Africa

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Stop Coca-Cola bullying South Africa
Stop Coca-Cola bullying South Africa
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We all know Mzansi’s health system is under a lot of pressure, and globally experts have warned that sugary drinks are increasing rates of obesity and Type 2 Diabetes [1]. Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has proposed introducing a sugar tax, which researchers from Wits University [2] and the World Health Organisation back as measures to improve people’s health.

Fearing losses in profit, it appears that Coca-Cola and the Beverage Association of SA (BevSA) are doing everything in their power to stop the sugar tax from happening. Coca-Cola claims the government's proposed sugar tax “could result in South Africa losing 60,000 jobs” [3][4]. But, according to Economist Dr Makgetla, these claims are unfounded, as there is actually an increase in demand for diet drinks [5]. Even more alarming, is that Africa Check discovered that the job loss figures BevSA use, were based on a report they themselves paid for, and BevSA did not provide Africa Check with the study or the data to back their job loss claims [6]. 

This is the same tactic used by tobacco and other companies around the world. When governments have tried to reduce the negative health impacts of a product, companies have tried to sway public opinion by bringing up job losses. Coca-Cola and it’s lobby group Anprac used the same tactics in Mexico in an attempt to stop the introduction of a sugar tax [7], but the Mexican government went ahead and the tax has been hailed a success.

We should also question companies crying poor when faced with a sugar tax. Many companies who profit from sugary drinks are making mega profits while straining our health system. Take for instance SAB Miller, who is now the majority shareholder in Coca-Cola Beverages Africa. Their CEO Alan Clark is Mzansi’s highest paid CEO, earning R152 million in 2015 [8]. SAB Miller also has a history of avoiding paying tax in South Africa [9]. Given this, we have to question whether this is really about jobs, or in fact about corporate greed.

It’s critical we stand up to corporate greed and bullying, and ensure jobs aren’t lost and our country's health improves. Let's send a message to government that we stand behind them. We must act now. BevSA and their allies have already launched a major media and advertising campaign to undermine the sugar tax. Together we can expose corporate bullying and greed. Pravin Gordhan wants to introduce the sugar tax early next year, that’s why BevSA is pouring resources into this anti-sugar tax campaign. But together we can stop it.


Dear Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan,

We, the undersigned, stand in support of the introduction of the sugar tax in 2017 as it will help remove the burden on the public health system in the long-run. Please ignore the false claims made by BevSA in their attempt to hinder this good work. While we support the sugar tax being implemented, we call for you to ring fence the revenue from the sugar tax, and ensure it goes towards supporting public health interventions around non-communicable diseases in low-income communities. We acknowledge your commitment to work with Health Minister Motsoaledi to allocate funds through the normal budget process to fight NCDs, but call on you to make firmer commitments with this revenue so we the people know how revenue will fight NCDs.


Dear BevSA, Coca Cola Beverages Africa, Gutsche Family Investments and SAB Miller, 

We, the undersigned, call on you to immediately cease with your campaign against the proposed sugar tax. As your claims have been questioned by economists and fact checkers, we call on you to commit to ensure no jobs will be lost following the introduction of the sugar tax, even if this means pay cuts for your senior executives. We will not tolerate corporate greed and bullying in one of the most unequal societies in the world. 

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[1] Sugar-sweetened beverages and risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis, Malik VS, Popkin BM, Bray GA, Després JP, Willett WC, Hu FB. Sugary Drinks and Obesity Fact Sheet, Harvard School of Public Health.

[2] Sugar tax could save South Africa billions by James Thabo Molelekwa for Health- E News. April 21, 2016.

[3] Sugar tax to cost SA 60 000 jobs, warns Coca-Cola. Fin24 Aug 16, 2016.

[4] Sugar Tax Threatens Jobs, South Africa Coca-Cola Bottler Says, Liezel Hill and Arabile Gumede for Bloomberg. Aug 22, 2016.

[5] Fatal flaw in sugar industry argument, new analysis shows, Tamar Khan for Business Day. 30 Aug 2016.

[6] SA’s proposed sugar tax: claims about calories & job losses checked. Africa Check 31 AUG 2016

[7] How one of the most obese countries on earth took on the soda giants, Tina Rosenberg for The Guardian. November 3, 2015.

[8] Highest paid bosses in South Africa, Business Tech. Nov 11, 2015.

[9] Calling Time, why SAB Miller should stop dodging taxes in Africa. A report by Action Aid

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Obesity and Type 2 diabetes is on the rise, driven by our high sugar diets. Mzansi's health system is already under huge pressure, that's why the Finance Minister's sugar tax could help turn this situation around. But Coca Cola and BevSA are trying to stop the sugar tax, claiming job loses which economists and fact checkers question. We must stand up to greedy corporate bullies who are putting profits before health and jobs.