Zimbabwe industry in shock over Nestle closure

Harare, – Zimbabwe industry organizations on Thursday expressed "concern" over the closure of operations of the Swiss based Nestle.

The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) vice president, Joseph Kanyekanye, Chamber of Mines president, Victor Gapare and Obert Sibanda the president of the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC), industrialists said the recent closure and arrest of Nestle Zimbabwe senior officials was not warranted and may affect industry recovery.

"We note with concern events unfolding at Nestle Zimbabwe (Pvt) Limited resulting in the arrest and subsequent release of Mr Kumbirai Katsande Chairman of Nestle Zimbabwe, plus temporary closure of operations.  As industrialists and business people we appeal to the authorities to nurture our nascent industrial recovery and avoid any any actions that signal reverse direction.As Zimbabweans, we also demand that our collective effort to enhance economic recovery should never be compromised."

On Wednesday Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara said they will look into the matter involving the closure of Nestle Zimbabwe with Tsvamgirai saying it was an ‘over-reaction.’

Industry and Commerce Minister Professor Welshman Ncube says government has requested Nestle Zimbabwe to resume operations after giving the company assurances they will not be harassed by government officials and groups loyal to President Robert Mugabe.

“Having been tasked to attend to the above issue (dispute), by His Excellency, the President Cde Robert Mugabe and the Right Honourable Prime Minister Mr M. Tsvangirai, the Minister of Industry and Commerce held consultations with Nestle Zimbabwe, Gushungo Dairies and other stakeholders in the Dairy sector,” Ncube said.

“As a result of those consultations, the parties have collectively reached an understanding to work together in ensuring that milk produced at Gushungo dairies is absorbed by the local Dairy processors. For its part, government has given its assurance on the safety of staff and management at both Nestle Zimbabwe and Gushungo dairies.

“In the meantime, Nestle has been requested to restart operations as soon as possible.”

No comment could however be obtained from either Nestle or Gushungo Dairy Estate on whether operations would resume.

Relations soured between the two companies in October this year when the food producing company bowed to international pressure to stop milk purchases from Grace Mugabe’s farm.  The milk has been branded as blood milk as the farm is among the numerous farms seized by the first family during Zimbabwe’s bloody land reform programme, marred by killings of former farm owners, arson, thefts, rapes and related crimes.

Nestle on Wednesday abruptly shut down its plant in Zimbabwe following threats by President Mugabe’s loyalists who include government ministers and a business pressure group, the Affirmative Action Group (AAG). Radio VOP