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Africa/Global: Accounting Tricks with Coca-Cola

AfricaFocus Bulletin
February 1, 2016 (160201)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"The Cayman-based Conco is one of more than 25 entities located in tax havens -- just over 30 percent of the [Coca-Cola's] total 'financial' subsidiary disclosures.. Of those based in tax havens, almost half use Delaware, including the parent Coca-Cola company, incorporated there since 1919. ... Delaware's secret formula is the total tax exemption for all income related to intangible capital. In fact, the Delaware Code specifically highlights the advantages of holding companies for intangible capital that "charge" their own global subsidiaries a 'fee' for use of the trademarks and other intangible capital." - Khadija Sharife, in "Coca-Cola's Hidden Formula for Avoiding Taxes"

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from the report cited above by veteran South African investigative journalist Khadija Sharife, as well as from another investigative report featuring Coca-Cola from the South African on-line publication The Daily Maverick.

These two recent reports are revealing examples of strategies that multinational companies use to maximize their profits at the expense of both workers and taxpayers. They are well worth wide dissemination, not only in South Africa but wherever people drink Coca-Cola and pay taxes, while the parent company hides most of its profits from the tax collectors by one means or another. According to these articles, the mechanisms used include subsidiaries in tax havens (prominently including the Cayman Islands and Delaware in the United States, as well as outsourcing of distribution to separate bottling companies, which in turn may outsource driving to "independent contractors."

Sharife has earlier reported on similar issues in South Africa's diamond industry ( But this report on the world's leading consumer brand name shows that the draining of resources from Africa and from public treasuries around the world is not limited to the more often-noted mining sector, but is pervasive among the largest multinational corporations.

The new Sharife article includes background on Coca-Cola's role in South Africa and in Swaziland, as well as wider background on how the company uses its "trade secrets" to transfer assets between subsidiaries.

Also appearing last month, and briefly excerpted here, was an investigative report by the Daily Maverick on outsourcing by CocaCola' s bottling company in South Africa ABI (itself a subsidiary of SAB Miller), through its "owner-driver" program transferring costs to the drivers while funneling more profits to the company. ABI and SABMiller are now being sued by a group of owner-drivers.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on tax evasion, tax avoidance, and illicit financial flows, visit

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++

Trade Secrets: Coca-Cola's Hidden Formula for Avoiding Taxes

Khadija Sharife

100 Reporters, December 3, 2015 - direct URL:

[Khadija Sharife is the lead Africa forensics researcher for Investigative Dashboard (ID) and a senior investigator for African Network of Centers for Investigative Reporting (ANCIR). She is the author of Tax Us If You Can: Africa.]

[Excerpts only. For full text, see the link above]

... in South Africa, my home country, Coke was a household name since the 1940s. [but international pressure for divestment from apartheid grew] By 1978, the pressure was enough for the US Senate's Foreign Relations Subcommittee, assessing 250 companies active in South Africa, to specifically rebuke Coca-Cola for perpetuating the apartheid system. The company refused to disclose, on several occasions, key information about hiring, pay scales and other critical issues, citing confidentiality. At the time, Coke controlled more than 75 percent of the South African market and 10 cents of every 80-cent bottle sold was claimed by the regime as tax.

By the mid-1980s global pressure grew in some of Coke's biggest markets. In fact, like SABMiller and other companies using a host of tax havens, trusts and neighboring countries to circumvent South Africa as provenance, Coke had reorganized business affairs from the late 1970s to ensure that a management presence external to the country could still hold the market through selective divestment. In other words, Coke wanted in--just not from the inside. The company circumvented the problem of selling its Durban-based concentrate plant--its syrup manufacturer--by developing another in neighbouring Swaziland. The company's primary business, after all, is selling concentrate to bottlers.


Swaziland, ruled as Africa's last absolute monarchy since independence in 1968, was already suffering from a voided Constitution, imprisoned opponents and the banning of all political parties. Coke stepped into Swaziland, incorporating Coca-Cola Conco (1986), almost in tandem with the entrance of a new King, Mswati. A year later, the company had a concentrate plant up and running, exporting to its biggest regional buyer -- South Africa. Mswati would gift Coke with the desired proximity, total legal and financial secrecy and a 6 percent corporate tax rate -- essentially providing tax haven-like services to the company. (Swaziland's revenue agency and Coca-Cola declined to comment).

These days, Coca-Cola is the single most powerful private entity in Swaziland; at last count, the source behind over 22 percent of GDP and 38 percent of the country's foreign exchange earnings, closely following sugar exports. It is also the most powerful brand in the world, boasting a market capitalization of $177 billion and sold in over 200 countries. Which is, to say, more countries than the UN has members.

Coca-Cola claims the world's largest beverage distribution system through Coke-owned or controlled bottlers and distribution systems and an impressive network of independent bottlers and other partners.

Coke informed us that the company uses no sugar produced in Swaziland (the actual list of countries supplying sugar to Coca-Cola is confidential), but the company is part of the system generating unaccountable billions for the monarchy through intertwined interests, such as a minority shareholding in the State-owned sugar exporter, the Royal Swaziland Sugar Corporation (RSSC); Coke's Swaziland-based CEO Manqoba "MK" Khumalo is a member of the board.

The actual value of Coca-Cola's business in Swaziland -- its operating costs, profits and losses, intra-company loans and interest rates, etc., is just one of Coke's many trade secrets.

Hidden Values

But there is another Conco, this one disclosed by Coke and based in the Cayman Islands, a notoriously secretive tax haven. It forms part of the machinery behind Coca-Cola's lucrative nectar: the actual value of the brand. The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires multinationals to identify -- at the risk of a small penalty for non-disclosure -- subsidiaries that are financial or tax related entities. (Often, when comparing company disclosures from one year to the next, subsidiaries that remain active, disappear.)

The Cayman-based Conco is one of more than 25 entities located in tax havens -- just over 30 percent of the company's total "financial" subsidiary disclosures, exposing a strategy explained by the company in the annual report as "tax planning." ("Our annual tax rate is based on our income, statutory tax rates and tax planning opportunities available to us in the various jurisdictions in which we operate.") Of those based in tax havens, almost half use Delaware, including the parent Coca-Cola company, incorporated there since 1919. (The re-incorporation shift to Delaware was a legal, though not physical move, from Atlanta where the company was incorporated in 1892 and where it continues to be physically headquartered.)

Delaware's secret formula is the total tax exemption for all income related to intangible capital. In fact, the Delaware Code specifically highlights the advantages of holding companies for intangible capital that "charge" their own global subsidiaries a "fee" for use of the trademarks and other intangible capital. This occurs through a technique known as "arms length pricing" or intracompany trading, based on the transactions that might have occurred between two different companies. But the process is self-regulated by companies and transaction details are confidential even to national revenue agencies. We just have to take their word for it. Global Financial Integrity (GFI), a Washington- based nonprofit, estimates that an average 77 percent of the $528 billion (2002-2012) in illicit flows from sub-Saharan Africa takes place through transfer mispricing.

Traditional studies tend to focus on the undervaluation of minerals like diamonds or gold. Yet, in the case of intangible-heavy companies Coca-Cola, there exists no market equivalent against which to compare assigned value.

Costs related to use of the company intangible capital are logged in financial statements as expenses as "selling, general and administration" or SG&A -- the latest, for 2014, at $17.2 billion. But here's the catch: internally imputed intangible capital (all of Coca- Cola's own brands, like Coke, Coke Zero, Sprite, Diet Coke, etc.) cannot be financially valued or included on the balance sheet -- at all. According to the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) which sets global financial reporting standards, the only brands that can be listed are those that have been acquired. Simply put, if Coke bought Pepsi, only Pepsi would be listed on Coke's own financial statements. In Coca- Cola's case, intangible capital with indefinite lives (such as brands) is valued $6.5 billion or 7 percent of assets. The company statements paint an interesting picture: $92 billion book value, about $61 billion in liabilities, and assets of just $30.5 billion. Half, or $14.6 billion, are tangible assets, like plants and property. Coke's net tangible assets--the company's total assets less intangibles, preferred equity and liabilities--or its book value, is less than $4 billion (2014). More than 96 percent of the company's value derived from intangibles, if the metric of market capitalization (less net assets) is used.

Coke is not alone. "Over the past thirty years," said Professor Roger Sinclair, a marketing specialist based at Wits University, "the value of the intangible portion of world stock markets has increased. In the early 1970s the balance between tangible and intangible was 80:20 in favour of tangibles. Today that is reversed--80 percent of the value of most stock markets is intangible." Sinclair explained that Coke's hidden value was $152 billion, after deducting net value from market capitalization data. "That is how, and where, investors incorporate the brand," he told us. "But that value is not admitted on the balance sheet."

The value, however, holds sway.

Intangible Goldmine

Interbrand, a leading brand consultancy, usually ranks Coca-Cola in the top three brands, alongside Google, and Microsoft -- companies that make their business from intangible capital. These same companies are renowned for very low tax rates and very high undistributed income--example, Microsoft's $108 billion ‘offshore' cash stash or Google's 17 percent tax rate. Ironically, this hidden value is an open secret. Brand Finance acknowledges that "most high value, internally generated, intangible assets never appear in conventional balance sheets."


The dangers of exclusion, however, are more lethal for governments, small shareholders and ultimately, the taxpayer: quite simply, selfregulated space leaves room to fudge the numbers. From 2010-2014, Coca-Cola has logged over $82 billion in expenses under Selling, General and Administrative costs, deducted from pre-tax profits. These expenses include advertising ($16 billion), bottlers and distribution ($38 billion) and other expenses ($27 billion). How much of this in (dollar value and percentage) were payments to their own subsidiaries for use of their own brands, and, in the absence of any disclosed valuations, how were these payments determined? CocaCola declined to comment.

What has not been said -- and arguably the reason behind the closely guarded secret of Coca-Cola's own concentrate, known mysteriously as Merchandise 7x, is simply that so much of it is air and sweet nothings: the cost of Coke's formula for instance, is sugar, water and bits of cinnamon, neroli and coriander. Not too expensive.

While not disclosing the actual details, the company concedes, "We derive a significant portion of our net operating revenues from sales of concentrates and syrups to independent bottling partners" -- estimated at 38 percent from 2012-2014. The company also concedes, without disclosing details, that the profits from concentrate revenue is high.

Alongside Pepsi, but far in advance, Coca-Cola's concentrate has created a collusive and oligopolistic market structure, with bottlers globally dependent on concentrate produced only by Coke (and Pepsi). The company not only sets the prices of concentrate (varying according to market) but controls or determines the entire process, including how much the end products may sell for and whether rival products in any category--such as still, sparking, juice, coffee, iced tea, etc.--can be sold. Coca-Cola's gross profit margins usually rank above 60 percent.


The total absence of defined and disclosed costs for a company's internally developed intangibles could not be more significant: it also allows multinationals to reduce, with little or no external scrutiny, pre-tax profits with the accompanying effect of setting their own tax rates. The New York Times assessed the varying tax rates between industries, finding that pharmaceuticals and other industries dependent on intangibles, and therefore able to shift to low-tax jurisdictions, pay much less. Coke's effective tax rate, globally, was listed at just 15 percent (2007-2012) or $9.4 billion, far below the nominal top tax rate of 35 percent.

The company declined to answer most of our questions, requesting a teleconference, in which Coke's media and public affairs director instead asked reporters to explain the interest in Coke's financial and tax structures.

Coca-Cola further declined to detail the substance of $26.9 billion it claimed in "other operating expenses" and how this line item, in addition to bottling and distribution expenses, concerns transfer pricing of intangible capital. No doubt, some of these expenses are legitimate. The question is, how much and how is it verified? The lack of market equivalent, documented value of intangible capital and total secrecy allows the company tremendous latitude with virtually no outside oversight. It is an issue that spans Coke's corporate character from Africa to the Atlantic, and that of any number of companies that claim tax breaks on intangible capital, potentially using one location or system to undercut the other.

This brings to mind the $33 billion question.

From Africa to the Atlantic

Coca-Cola justifies its relatively low tax rate in the US by reporting that 80 percent or so of the company's business takes place outside the US, based on volumes sold. But there exists another yardstick: revenue. Almost 50 percent of the company's total revenue is generated in North America. In contrast, Europe, Asia Pacific, Eurasia and Africa, each generated an average of 10 percent of total revenues from 2012 to 2014. Logically, it makes sense that North America would be the highest: Coca-Cola's main business is concentrates and the value of intangibles -- not necessarily the same jurisdiction where value is allocated -- primarily operates through the US.

And that suggests something, somewhere, is wrong.

Recently, Coca-Cola disclosed a $3.3 billion tax-related dispute concerning transfer pricing with the US's Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The IRS alleged that Coca-Cola underreported income related to intangibles. The company maintains it does what it always does, pursuant to "the same transfer pricing methodology for these licenses since the methodology was agreed with the IRS."


It is clear from the way Coca-Cola does business that a hefty portion of the $33 billion in Coca-Cola's offshore cash comes from selling the rights of intangible capital use to its subsidiaries in tax havens. (The company declined to comment on the source of income.) The barrier to formal repatriation of the funds is the US tax code triggering tax in the US. Companies can choose when to repatriate. But whatever the linguistic framing, the cash is already deposited in US banks and being used by the companies -- onshore in the most real sense of the word.

"This is the general practice," said Rudolf Elmer, a whistleblower and former Cayman Islands-based CEO of Swiss mega-bank Julius Baer. "Companies hold their bank accounts in critical financial centers such as London, New York, Zurich to continue operations. The use of tax havens, he explained, is simple: "Tax-free income is generated in tax havens to ensure that taxable profits are minimised in countries where the tax rates are high." Previously an auditor with KPMG and Credit Suisse, Elmer emailed us various tax structures outlining the practices of major multinationals, particularly where it related to intangible capital.


In 2004, in a bid to capture the offshore pile, and taking the multinationals and Republican Party at their word -- with promises of creating 660,000 jobs, increased intangible capital development and much else, the US Congress passed the Job Creation Act, allowing for an 85 percent deduction of taxes from repatriated assets. The new tax rate? 5.25 percent.

The 15 companies that accounted for half the total sum repatriated, -- $155 billion -- ended up slashing over 20,000 jobs. ... Coca-Cola listed a maximum of $6.1 billion available for repatriation and has, since then, continued to amass offshore. ... The tax-free Caymans was the source of almost all of Coke's repatriated cash -- three times the Cayman Islands' own GDP in 2004, via an entity -- allegedly Atlantic Industries -- whose role the company described as "legal insulation."


That the value of a brand so ubiquitous that it straddles both the in and outside of society is kept off its books is one of the wonders of the accounting world. Yet when Coke and other large multinationals involved in pharmaceutical, consumer and technology services are allowed to withhold, or hold in secrecy, the value of core business intangibles while charging confidential expenses against these assets, it not only distorts the market. It facilitates gross transfer pricing manipulation, and drastically undermines taxes owed, and paid, to governments. Ultimately, it is the citizen taxpayer, the Coca-Cola consumer, who suffers the outcome. The secrecy of intra-company trading between subsidiaries of the same parent company facilitates this particularly where it relates to intangibles, developed by companies, and kept off their books.

To claim rightful revenues, governments must make country-by-country reporting mandatory, disclosing the substance of corporate form and function involving both subsidiaries and transactions. Internally developed intangible capital must be located on financial statements not simply as expenses but also, as assets, where the value really inheres -- such as sales lists; and geographically, where the patents, trademarks, formulas, and the like, were really developed -- both financially articulated at fair value rate. Finally, the use of legal and financial secrecy jurisdictions where economic activity does not occur must be disallowed. Failure to do this, under the guise of trade secrets, violates the goodwill that gives Coca-Cola's the billions behind its brand.

Casualties of Cola: Outsourced

By Richard Poplak, Diana Neille, Sumeya Gasa and Shaun Swingler.

Daily Maverick, December 6, 2015

[Brief excerpts only. For full feature story, with illustrations by Moses Mkhondo, visit]

Beverage behemoth SABMiller and its subsidiary, Amalgamated Beverage Industries (ABI), one of the African continent's leading bottlers of Coca-Cola products, are being sued for over R6 billion in damages by 150 owner-drivers (ODs) whose contracts were axed by the company over the last five years.

These ex-entrepreneurs, many of them former long-time employees of ABI, have accused the company of duping them into signing onerous contracts, squeezing their profits and unfairly terminating the relationship over a variety of unfounded allegations, in order to minimise its exposure to the risks associated with distribution and stringent labour regulations in South Africa.

The investigation,Casualties of Cola, which has been four months in the making and includes the testimonies of over 40 former ODs and their families, as well as dozens of industry experts and commentators, makes a compelling case for the assertion that this BBEE -aligned owner-driver scheme is a modern day iteration of slavery that is eroding South Africa's black middle class. In this, the piece is a larger meditation on the future of work in South Africa. Casualties of Cola is presented by Daily Maverick Chronicle, an editorial partnership between the multiple award-winning South African news and opinion publication and its newly-formed production agency, Chronicle. It is written and produced by acclaimed writer Richard Poplak, along with Chronicle's Sumeya Gasa, Shaun Swingler and Diana Neille.


Above a faded couch in Moses Mkhondo's makeshift home hangs a framed tableau of the perfect South African village. The collage was assembled by Mkhondo himself, back when he made a living driving trucks filled with Coca-Cola to spaza shops and taverns and corner cafes throughout Johannesburg's East Rand. The collage is meant to represent Mkhondo's ideal world: a bustling middle-class town, centred around a Coca-Cola depot from which great trucks ply the roads, dispensing bottled joy to a booming country.

For 30 years, Mkhondo could pretend to himself that he lived in this world. In early 2014 he was forced to stop pretending.

Long before he understood that he'd been outsourced, Moses Mkhondo was one of Coca-Cola's star drivers, a model employee who won prizes and was sent on an international trip for exceeding his performance targets. Born in Alexandra in 1959, he began his career in 1984 as a crewman at Amalgamated Beverage Industries (ABI) (, South Africa's largest bottler of Coca-Cola and other major soft drink brands.

Twenty years later, Mkhondo became an exemplar of an affirmative action policy that made local and international headlines--a black economic empowerment (BEE) initiative that would, for better or for worse, come to define the future of work in the New South Africa. ABI, along with the company that would come to fully own it, the beer giant SABMiller plc (, dubbed the programme "owner-driver" (OD), and its intention was to transform one-time employees into prosperous, independent businessmen. OD helped earn the companies a host of social responsibility awards, and burnished their ironclad reputations as the Rainbow Nation's most upstanding corporate citizens.

Today, however, Moses Mkhondo lives in a hastily built home on the fringes of Heidelberg, not merely broke but catastrophically in debt. He, his family, and the thousands of South Africans caught in the OD scheme's steady implosion are trying to make sense of what went so wrong. Andries Nkome, the attorney that represented Lonmin miners after the 2012 Marikana Massacre, is now assisting 150 former owner-drivers in their bid to sue ABI and SABMiller for losses amounting to over R6 billion

They are facing off against a vast corporate entity that is soon to become even bigger--if the single largest acquisition in the history of the London Stock Exchange passes regulatory muster, in 2016 SABMiller will join Anheuser-Busch InBev at their headquarters in Belgium, as part of a $350 billion multinational with a 29 percent market share of the planet's beer consumption

On trial is not just SABMiller's local record as an engine of empowerment, but the very concept of outsourcing and casualisation in a country with enormous and unsustainable divisions between rich and poor. Those pursuing the matter intend it to be a landmark case, a precedent-setter that helps redefine the nature of work in South Africa. And this may only be the beginning-- Nkome has initiated proceedings that, if successful, will prove that SABMiller's vaunted BEE brainchild was, in the words of Shaun Dlanjwa, an Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) ward secretary and the liaison between former drivers and their legal representatives, "less a scheme than a scam." ...

It wasn't always this way. In the 1980s, Moses Mkhondo loved working at ABI, and ABI appeared to love him back. "It was a good place," he told Daily Maverick Chronicle during a series of interviews in his cramped Heidelberg home. ABI, in order to ensure that Coca-Cola was as lightly tarred by apartheid's brush as possible, adopted a number of progressive employment measures at their bottling plants. Mkhondo was paid R100 a week, almost R40 more than the wage at comparable companies. ...

In 1994, shortly after the euphoria of the first general elections had subsided, Mkhondo was sent to Chamdor, Roodepoort, to earn his truck driver's licence. During apartheid, long haul driving had typically been the preserve of white males. Like many big companies, ABI understood that they would need to change the racial metrics of their workforce if they hoped to stay ahead of looming affirmative action regulation.

Mkhondo quickly earned his Code 14 licence and was promoted to fulltime driver. After winning an intra-company driving competition in 1998, he was handed the keys to a brand new truck with chrome finishing and a CB radio; he christened the truck "Bozzo." According to Mkhondo, the managers were polite and solicitous. The pay, which amounted to R7000 a month, came with benefits and sick leave and paid time off, but was not quite enough to afford the home he'd bought for his wife and three children in Tembisa. In 2003, Mkhondo and dozens of his colleagues were introduced to a new initiative, passed down from minority shareholder South African Breweries. "They told us that OD was a good thing and then it will make our lives easier," Mkhondo said. "They explained that there's more money in it. So then I got attracted to it, because I needed enough to pay my bond and take my kids to school."

AB had borrowed the OD concept from American companies like Arkansas-based Tyson Foods, which had developed "team driving" programmes in order to shift what would traditionally be the most expensive and burdensome item on the budget--labour costs--into the more manageable "services" category. By transforming employees into standalone business contractors, these programmes had the added benefit of chipping away at union power and eliminating the strikes that had traditionally disrupted delivery schedules.

In South Africa, OD schemes had a third and vital function: black economic empowerment.

It was the perfect gambit: the new programme would not only appease regulators, but would also function as a comprehensive public relations campaign. OD would allow ABI to calve off a portion of its distribution network to hundreds of BEE-rated companies, while CocaCola, once the apartheid regime's mixer of choice, would surf a wave of good cheer into the new dispensation, with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) jumping in and giving them points for complying with the laws of the land. ABI's acting managing director, Velaphi Ratshefola, grew up homeless in Soweto, and he made a strong case for ABI's commitment to black upward mobility.

According to De Wet Schutte, a SABMiller analyst at the equity research and trading firm Avior Capital Markets, the scheme proved immensely successful for both ABI and its parent company. "Apart from the public relations aspect of it, OD is very important because it essentially outsources a core function of the beverage market-- distribution. They have to be able to transport a quantity of heavy stuff across the country on a daily basis with extreme efficiency," said Schutte. "And the clincher is that you get your own people to buy into that strategy, because they own their own business, they share in the profits of the business, and you get to keep the government and the politicians happy as well." and other high end causes, while deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa once sat on a board that has long provided a comfortable sinecure for African National Congress (ANC) bigwigs. In 2013 alone, the company contributed R9 million to the six largest political parties in accordance to their representation in the National Assembly--part of an "on-going commitment to encourage the development of the South African democratic political system" that, by its nature, favours the ANC. ...

For Moses Mkhondo, it began rather badly. He remembers how, in April 2003, he and more than a dozen other employees were summoned to the ABI training room, asked to resign, and handed a 66-page contract with seven appendices. "We were not given enough time to take the contract home, or to get lawyers," claimed Mkhondo, an assertion backed up by 40 current and former ODs interviewed over the course of this investigation. The respect that had once been a hallmark of employer/employee relations had curdled. "The managers were rude to us," said Mkhondo. "They insisted we must sign right away. When they talked to us, they didn't beg. They told us 'sign, or else you lose your contract.'"

In an instant, Mkhondo and his colleagues had lost their benefits and, unwittingly, their collective bargaining rights. "We became enemies of the people," said a former driver named Thomas Mashitwa. "We were now just ex-members of the union, siding with management." Mkhondo's fellow newly-minted entrepreneurs were given a R25,000 start-up lump sum (which would later become a monthly stipend of about R2,100), and leased company trucks for phase one of their contractual obligations. They were assigned a business advisor--in Mkhondo's case, Mike Melnick of M Melnick Financial Services --paid for out of their stipend, who opened business bank accounts and ran the books on their behalf.

At first, the programme appeared to function as promised. "My husband would come home carrying R180,000 every month," said Moipone Mantshu, whose husband Samuel Ramokongoane worked for ABI as an OD for 17 years before his death. This was an astonishing sum by any measure, but there were numerous hidden expenses embedded in the contract, along with clauses that allowed ABI to move the compensation goalposts without outside vetting or consultation.

"The money we were getting was much better than I was earning as a company driver," Mkhondo explained. "But then I must pay my crews. And then the fuel, and also maintenance on the truck, because ABI wanted us to maintain their trailers."

After SABMiller acquired 100 percent of ABI in late 2004, the company's culture darkened even further. ... "We were just working to pay the diesel," said Mkhondo.

As the OD scheme became institutionalised, ABI began to outsource other elements of its delivery and distribution infrastructure. In 2011, Mkhondo was approached by a manager and asked to run what ABI termed a "Marketing and Logistics Partner", or MLP--a small warehouse plugged into the supply chain. ... According to Mkhondo and others who were offered similar opportunities, the process was booby-trapped with inconsistencies. For one thing, the MLP was little more than a garage. For another, the billing system did not line up with ABI's accounting software. "The MLP system was not the same as the ABI system," Mkhondo explained, "and we as ODs could pay huge money for this problem." After month-end stock-taking in June 2013, Mkhondo complained to his ABI representative that he had not been paid for 2000 cases, a shortfall amounting to roughly R60,000. His manager told him that because the systems didn't line up, stock was bound to go errant, and that the MLP operator was ultimately responsible for the shortfall.


On January 7, 2014, without warning, Mkhondo received a termination letter, effective immediately.


"OD was not empowerment, it was de-empowerment," said Moses Mkhondo. The way he sees it, the scheme has destroyed his life. He lost his house in Tembisa and was forced to sell his trucks in order to build a new place on the edges of a highway in Heidelberg. There is no money for school fees, and no money for food. ... The only mementos that remain after a 30-year career are his awards, his termination papers, and the painting of an ideal world that hangs above his couch.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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