Swiss food manufacturing giant Nestlé has temporarily suspended operations in Zimbabwe complaining of harassment and intimidation of its workers after terminating an arrangement to buy milk from Gushungo Dairy Estates, a firm controlled by the family of President Robert Mugabe.
Economists warned the shutdown sent a negative signal to potential investors in the country, where a tenuous economic turnaround is in progress.
Sources said six workers from Gushungo Dairy Estates left a tanker truck full of raw milk at the headquarters of the Zimbabwe Nestlé subsidiary.
Youth Empowerment and Indigenization Minister Saviour Kasukuwere and Agriculture Minister Joseph Made, both of Mr. Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, are said to have visited the unit's headquarters this week and accused executives there of illegally imposing economic sanctions.
The ministers were accompanied by senior police officials Chief Superintendent Chrispen Makedenge and Detective Inspector Henry Dowa.
Nestlé spokeswoman Brinda Chiniah in Mauritius told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that the company will continue to engage the government in an effort to resolve the dispute, but at the moment the situation is tense.
Kasukuwere accused Nestlé of dabbling in politics by severing ties with the dairy enterprise in October after coming under pressure from international human rights activists for doing business with the Mugabes.
VOA was unable to obtain comment from Made, Makedenge or Dowa.