Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has weighed in on the decision by Nestlé to shut down its Harare plant over official pressure from ministers of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF to purchase milk from a dairy controlled by Mr. Mugabe's family, saying the Swiss company "overreacted."
Nestlé announced on Wednesday it was suspending operations at its Harare plant, citing harassment by ZANU-PF officials it said tried to force managers to purchase raw milk from Gushongo Dairy Estate, which is owned by Grace Mugabe, wife of the long-ruling president.
Nestlé terminated a relationship with Gushongo as a supplier in October after coming under fire from international human rights activists.
The government responded by freezing the company's local bank accounts in what was seen as a retributive move, but rescinded that decision after negotiations with Nestlé management.
Commenting on the matter, Mr. Tsvangirai said it the standoff was “something that needs to be looked at” but the prime minister added that Nestlé's closure was “an overreaction which (was) totally unnecessary.”
Sources told VOA the government has asked Industry and Commerce Minister Welshman Ncube to look into the situation. Observers noted that the pressure on Nestlé might deter the foreign direct investment which the unity government led by Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Tsvangirai hopes to attract to Zimbabwe.
But London-based political analyst Brilliant Mhlanga told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that Mr. Tsvangirai was on target and that Nestlé should have engaged the government before suspending operations, given the economic impact on its approximately 200 employees.