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Nestle shuts Zimbabwe milk plant citing harassment

Robert and Grace Mugabe (Dec 2008)
Gushungo is one of several farms controlled by the Mugabe family

Swiss multinational Nestle has suspended operations at its dairy plant in Zimbabwe, citing harassment.

After international criticism, Nestle announced in October that it would stop buying milk from a farm owned by President Robert Mugabe's wife Grace.

The company said since then it had come under pressure to accept milk from "certain non-contracted suppliers".

President Mugabe said he was unaware of the development and his prime minister said it was an "over-reaction".

'Solution sought'

In a statement, Nestle said government officials and police forced staff to accept a delivery on Saturday.

Since... employees' safety is no longer guaranteed, Nestle decided to temporarily shut down the facility
Nestle statement

"Two Nestle Zimbabwe managers were questioned by the police and released without charges the same day," the statement said.

"Since under such circumstances normal operations and the safety of employees are no longer guaranteed, Nestle decided to temporarily shut down the facility."

Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai told a press conference after the announcement that he thought the shutdown was an "over-reaction".

"I am sure the minister of industry, who is responsible, is talking to the directors - and that a solution will be found," he said.

Mr Mugabe, who was also at the press gathering, said he was not aware of the development.

In October, Nestle said it would stop buying milk from Gushungo Dairy Estate and seven other farms after human rights activists had called for a boycott of Nestle products.

The farm, owned by Grace Mugabe, was seized from its white owner under controversial land reforms.

The company said it had bought from farms such as Gushungo since February to help the country as its dairy industry neared collapse.

In February, Mr Mugabe joined a unity government with the Movement for Democratic Change leader Mr Tsvangirai aimed at rescuing the country's shattered economy - which has stabilised in recent months.

Mrs Mugabe is subject to international sanctions, along with her husband and dozens of other Zimbabwean officials.

But these cover travel to, and assets held in, the US, EU, Switzerland and other countries - they do not restrict trade, except arms sales.



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