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Nestle Zimbabwe Pressured by Employees of Mugabe Family-Owned Dairy Farm

Grace Mugabe
Grace Mugabe

Gushungo Holdings workers threatened directors of the company saying the government would withhold a senior Nestle manager's work permit if the Swiss-based company did not resume buying Mugabe farm milk

Six employees of a Zimbabwean dairy farm owned by Grace Mugabe, wife of President Robert Mugabe, confronted executives of Nestlé Zimbabwe in Harare Thursday demanding the unit resume buying milk from the farm.

Sources said the six employees of Gushongo Holdings obtained a meeting with Nestlé Zimbabwe Managing Director Heath Tilley and Finance Director Farai Munesti after threatening to physically harm the directors.

Nestlé Zimbabwe stopped taking milk from the Mugabe farm in September after coming under fire internationally for doing business with the presidential family believed to have wrested the dairy farm from a white commercial farmer.

Business partners and activists threatened to boycott the company’s products if it continued buying 10% to 15% of its raw milk from Gushungo Holdings.

Sources informed on the incident said the six men told the two Nestlé directors that the government might withhold a work permit for the firm's new managing director unless it expanded business with resettled farmers. The firm’s work permit application has been pending for several months.

Political commentator Rejoice Ngwenya told VOA Studio 7 reporter Gibbs Dube that such acts violated Zimbabwe's Companies Act as no firm can be forced to do business with concerns it believes have violated the law.

Gushungo Holdings and Nestlé Zimbabwe both declined to comment.

Nestlé's decision to sever business ties with Gushungo Holdings led to a fall-out with political and economic groups loyal to President Mugabe who claimed that the company was imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe's first family.