Nestlé’s Zimbabwe dairy plant closes after reports of intimidation

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 24th December 2009

The world’s largest food manufacturer has suspended operations at its dairy plant in Zimbabwe due to safety concerns.

Nestlé decided in October to sever ties with farms owned by Grace Mugabe – the wife of controversial president Robert Mugabe – after facing a barrage of criticism when the link was discovered. The company said at the time that, given a number of their dairy suppliers in the country had gone bust early this year, they had little choice but to source milk from Mugabe-owned farms.

The Swiss giant has now reported to have been placed under pressure to accept deliveries from “certain non-contracted suppliers”. A statement from the company said staff were forced to accept a delivery on Saturday given the presence of police and government officials. As a result, they have closed down their factory temporarily to ensure the safety of their workers.

“Two Nestle Zimbabwe managers were questioned by the police and released without charges the same day,” the statement claimed. “Since under such circumstances normal operations and the safety of employees are no longer guaranteed, Nestle decided to temporarily shut down the facility.”At a press conference, Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said the closure was an “over-reaction”, while Mr Mugabe said he had no knowledge of the Nestlé decision.