Business Maverick

South Africa, Business Maverick

Casualties of Cola: Outsourcing, Exploitation and the New Reality Of Work

Inaugural Daily Maverick Chronicle feature investigates outsourcing and exploitation of South African owner-drivers by the world's biggest beverage companies. By DAILY MAVERICK CHRONICLE.

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 B-BEE-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.

Read the full feature here.