Zimbabwean Industry Minister Welshman Ncube told VOA Tuesday that the high-profile dispute between Swiss-based Nestlé's operating unit in the country and a business controlled by the family of President Robert Mugabe, which he was instrumental in settling, was "blown out of proportion."
Nestlé suspended operations in the country before Christmas after coming under heavy pressure from Mugabe partisans to re-establish a supply relationship with Gushungo Dairy Estates, controlled by Grace Mugabe, the president's wife, which it severed in October under pressure from rights activists.
Nestlé resumed operations on December 31 after Ncube brokered a settlement and offered assurances as to the safety of the firm's managers and staff and the ability of the multinational processing unit to operate unimpeded.
Ncube told VOA that the settlement allows Nestlé to carry on its operations and Gushungo to continue in the business of selling milk to unidentified processors. Ncube he declined to say which processors would buy Gushungo's output.
A statement issued by Nestlé announcing the resumption of operations said: "The company reiterates its commitment to source milk exclusively from its contracted farmers." A Nestlé spokesperson declined to expand on this.
Minister Ncube told VOA Studio 7 reporter that the dispute was blown out of proportion as such disagreements arise in the course of business.