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With Assurances From Zimbabwe Government, Nestle Resumes Operations

A Nestle spokeswoman said Industry Minister Welshman Ncube gave the multinational a written assurance that the government will see to the security of staff and prevent interference in Nestlé's activities

A spokeswoman for Swiss-based Nestlé said Friday that the company's unit in Zimbabwe had resumed operations on Thursday based on assurances from the Harare government concerning the safety of its managers and staff.

Nestlé spokeswoman Brinda Chiniah said Industry Minister Welshman Ncube provided the multinational with a written guarantee that the government will ensure staff security and prevent interference in Nestlé's activities.

Nestlé suspended operations in December after coming under pressure by two ministers of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party to take consignments of milk from Gushungo Dairy Estate, controlled by Mr. Mugabe's wife Grace. Nestlé terminated a supplier relationship with Gushungo in October after coming under pressure from human rights activists over the link.

Mugabe loyalists accused Nestlé of imposing its own version of the Western targeted sanctions which the ZANU-PF side of the Harare unity government has been urging its power-sharing partner, the Movement for Democratic Change of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, to help remove.

Tsvangirai last week said Nestlé had overreacted by suspending operations, but many observers said the company had a right to choose its partners, and was obliged to protect its international reputation from being tarnished once its association with the Mugabe family became a sensitive issue.

Chiniah declined to provide details on the terms of the resolution, but she said Nestlé would not be buying milk from Gushungo. Earlier reports said Ncube proposed an arrangement under which Nestlé would purchase milk from a cooperative whose contributors would include Gushungo.

VOA was unable to reach Ncube immediately for details on the resolution of the Nestlé imbroglio, which political analysts said amounted to a setback in the country's efforts to win the confidence of international investors.

Supa Mandiwandzira, president of the non-governmental Affirmative Action Group, which has criticized Nestlé, told VOA Studio 7 reporter Patience Rusere that he welcomed the move which will save scores of jobs.