Zimbabwean authorities have threatened executives at NestlÃ©’s Zimbabwe unit in a bid to force the company to reverse its decision to stop taking milk from Grace Mugabe’s dairy farm.
The Mail & Guardian has established that Agriculture Minister Joseph Made and Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, accompanied by senior police officer Henry Dowa, approached NestlÃ© in an attempt to force the company to receive milk from the Mugabes’ Gushungo Holdings dairy farm. Two executives at the company were briefly detained and released.
Selby Hwacha, a lawyer for NestlÃ©, said executives at the company had been taken to a police station on Monday, but not charged.
‘They were asked to come to the police station, but no charges were laid against them. We do not know what the police wanted, or what the problem was,â€ Hwacha said.
It is understood the two ministers told NestlÃ© management that by refusing to accept the milk, the company was ‘placing sanctions on Zimbabweâ€, and that this could result in its closure or arrest of senior executives.
Threats were reportedly made to withhold managing director Heath Tilley’s work permit. Tilley only joined the Zimbabwe unit from NestlÃ© Fiji recently.
To test NestlÃ©’s resolve, a tanker from Gushungo Dairy was scheduled to arrive at the company’s factory in an industrial park just east of Harare on Monday.
Last Thursday, six men claiming to represent Gushungo Holdings arrived at NestlÃ©’s offices, demanding to see ‘whoever is in chargeâ€ so they could deliver milk to the factory. NestlÃ© workers said the men met Tilley and finance director Farai Munetsi.
No comment was available from NestlÃ© on Monday.
NestlÃ© stopped accepting milk from Gushungo Holdings in October after pressure from anti-Mugabe activists.
Mugabe has previously stated publicly that Made manages his farms. Kasukuwere has used his ministry to push for controversial empowerment regulations that would see foreign companies being forced, within months, to surrender majority shares to local companies.