Nestlé shuts up shop in Zimbabwe

Swiss food giant Nestlé has shut down its Zimbabwe unit after a week of harassment from government officials.

The Herald state daily on Wednesday quoted a Nestlé spokesperson in Kenya, Brinda Chiniah, as saying: ‘Nestlé Zimbabwe has temporarily decided to shut down its factory.”

Other reports quoted Chiniah as saying the decision had been taken because “normal operations and the safety of employees are no longer guaranteed”.

Empowerment minister Saviour Kasukuwere, together with Agriculture Minister Joseph Made and senior police officials, stormed Nestlé offices in Harare this week to demand that the company reverse its decision to stop accepting milk from Gushungo Holdings, a dairy farm run by Grace Mugabe. Six workers from the farm had earlier driven a tanker from Gushungo Holdings to the company’s offices, demanding that Nestle accept the milk.

The Herald quoted Kasukuwere as saying the West was using Nestlé to ‘impose sanctions on the country”.

“We will bring under indigenous control all companies that continue to pursue the policy of sanctions,” Kasukuwere was quoted as saying.

On Monday, two of Nestle’s senior executives were summoned by police to a Harare police station, but released without charge.

Nestlé had long resisted pressure from international rights groups to withdraw from Zimbabwe, saying this would place the livelihoods of its workers at risk.

The closure of its Harare factory may result in the loss of over 200 jobs and also hurt other farmers that have been supplying the factory.

In addition, the Nestlé decision will be seen as a massive knock to Zimbabwe’s efforts to attract wary foreign investors to the country.


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