Vevey, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – Food multinational Nestlé says it has closed its milk production plant in Zimbabwe after the government pressured it to take milk from a non-contracted supplier 19 December during a surprise visit from government officials. Two days later, Monday, two of the plant’s managers were called into the Harare police station for questioning, then released. President Robert Mugabe and his unity government partner Morgan Tsvangirai have both reacted with dismay to the closing, and observers in southern Africa are calling it a setback for the unity government, which has been working to convince foreign investors and aid groups to return to the country.
Several African news sources report that the supplier was a farm belonging to members of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s family, although Nestlé has not confirmed this. The Zimbabwe operation of the company stopped buying milk from a farm belonging to Mugabe’s wife in October 2009, Gushungo Dairy Estate, formerly known as Foyle Farm, one of the country’s largest. Mugabe’s wife received the farm as part of Zimbabwe’s land redistribution programme.
“Since under such circumstances normal operations and the safety of employees are no longer guaranteed, Nestlé decided to temporarily shut down the factory,” Brinda Chinia, company spokeswoman for Nestlé Zimbabwe said from Kenya. She noted that the company had not processed, nor paid for, the milk. The plant has been operating in Zimbabwe for 50 years.
Background stories: GenevaLunch