By Lance Guma
18 December 2009
Six workers employed by Grace Mugabe’s Gushungo Dairy Estates, stormed the headquarters of dairy giant Nestle in Harare, demanding that the company resume accepting milk from the farm. In October this year pressure from human rights groups forced Nestle to stop accepting milk from Grace’s farm. Formerly known as Foyle Farm, its previous white owner was forced to sell for a knock down price, after a sustained campaign of violence. Human rights campaigners accused Nestle of funding repression by doing business with the First Lady and dubbed her produce ‘blood milk’.
But loyalists from Mugabe’s camp have continued their attempts to intimidate Nestle into accepting the milk. In October a group of ZANU PF youths tried to force the company to buy about 20 000 litres of milk from the farm. Led by Youth Minister Saviour Kasukuwere and his ZANU PF politburo member brother, Tongai, the group tried to force staff to offload a milk tanker from Gushungo Farm. But after a four hour stand-off, including intense debate and negotiations with Nestlé Zimbabwe management, the tanker and the ZANU PF youth group were turned away. Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono also entered the fray and responded by freezing the bank accounts of Nestle Zimbabwe, a week after the dairy firm stopped buying milk from Grace Mugabe.
On Thursday this week 6 employees from Grace’s farm, driving a white ERF truck, parked outside Nestlé’s headquarters along Park Lane and demanded to see ‘whoever is in charge so that they can deliver milk,’ it was reported.
Nestle managing director Heath Tilley, and Finance Director Farai Munesti, are said to have met the intruders but no details have been released of the outcome.
Meanwhile two South African managers working for a company that sold dairy equipment to Grace Mugabe, have been forced to leave the company. Swedish based dairy giant DeLaval, sold a 32-cow-capacity milking parlour, two giant cooling tanks and consumables worth £300,000 to Gushungo Dairy Estate. Benoit Passard, DeLaval's spokesman in Sweden, said that Leon Lilje, the managing director of DeLaval South Africa, and Rykie Visser a sales manager, had both ‘decided to leave the company to pursue new challenges".
"This follows the internal investigation regarding the transactions between DeLaval South Africa and Gushungo Dairy Estate farm in Zimbabwe which was ethically unacceptable and in breach of our code of business conduct - namely dealing with people on international sanction lists,” Passard said.