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Zimbabwe's Mugabe Threatens Swiss Holdings in 'Reciprocity' for Visa Denials

Swiss companies in Zimbabwe include food giant Nestlé, which temporarily shut down a Harare processing plant in December 2009 due to pressure brought when it stopped buying milk from a Mugabe-owned dairy

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has threatened to seize Swiss-owned properties or companies following that country's denial last week of visas to his wife Grace and five senior aides who wished to attend a United Nations conference in Geneva.

Although Mr. Mugabe had received a visa, he canceled the trip and headed to Singapore for treatment of what credible reports say is metastatic prostate cancer.

Arriving home at Harare International Airport late Sunday, Mr. Mugabe told journalists he was saddened by the Swiss visa denials, adding, “now they are showing that they are vicious and we will reciprocate because they have properties here. We are not without means to reciprocate.”

Mugabe, 87, brushed aside lingering concerns about his health saying he is fit.

Swiss companies operating in Zimbabwe include food giant Nestlé, which temporarily shut down a Harare milk processing plant in December 2009 amid threats from ZANU-PF after it stopped buying milk from Grace Mugabe’s Gushongo Dairy Farm.

The Swiss embassy in Harare refused to comment.

Switzerland imposed sanctions on Mr. Mugabe and hundreds of ZANU-PF officials in 2002, accusing them of human rights abuses and ballot-rigging.

Economic analyst Walter Nsununguli Mbongolwane commented that Mr. Mugabe’s threats could handicap economic growth by scaring away investors. "When they decide to seize Swiss companies, they will hide behind indigenization,"he said, referring to the ZANU-PF-inspired drive to claim a controlling black stake in foreign enterprises.

Political analyst Bhekilizwe Ndlovu told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that Mugabe’s threats do not bode well for economic recovery.