Coke bows to Zanu-PF pressure

Coca-Cola Zimbabwe has removed an open palm symbol it was using on its red cans as part of its "Crazy for Good Campaign". (Reuters)

Coca-Cola Zimbabwe has removed an open palm symbol it was using on its red cans as part of its "Crazy for Good Campaign". (Reuters)

After finding itself on the wrong side of Zanu-PF, Coca-Cola Zimbabwe has moved speedily to remove an open palm symbol it was using on its red cans as part of its "Crazy for Good Campaign".

The move follows a barrage of accusations from Zanu-PF that the international firm was overtly campaigning for Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's formation of the MDC, whose party symbol is the open palm and party colour is also red.

The Zimbabwe flag has replaced the "offensive" open palm that some in Zanu-PF felt was intended to attract votes for the opposition.

In May this year the state-controlled Herald accused Coca-Cola of being an "agent of regime change". Coca-Cola denied alleged links with Tsvangirai or the MDC.

At the time, the Mail & Guardian reported Zanu-PF's director of information, Psychology Maziwisa, as saying: "We want our sovereignty and independence as a country to be respected.

"We want commercial entities to operate with us purely on commercial and business terms and not to delve into politics."

Asked whether the company had bowed to political pressure, Coca-Cola Zimbabwe's public affairs and communication office referred the M&G to a statement published in the Herald in May, in which it said the offending cans had been imported from South Africa to fill a gap in the market and were not a form of politicking.

"It was clearly stated that locally produced cans bear the Zimbabwe flag, and Crazy for Good graphics are for those imported from South Africa. Both types of cans are available in the market . . . Bottlers in Zimbabwe will continue to supplement local production with imports of any packs of beverage to cover any shortfall that might arise for any reason," the statement says.

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