SA firm regrets doing business with Mugabe
By Noelene Barbeau
The Pinetown-based company that sold state-of-the-art dairy equipment to Grace Mugabe for her farm, did not know they were doing business with the wife of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and regrets the deal.
Grace Mugabe established a dairy farm, Gushungo Dairy Estate, on one of the six farms she acquired after they were seized from white owners, and is selling milk to Nestle Zimbabwe.
The farms, some among the most valuable in the country, have fallen into ruin. She is apparently running this particular farm at a huge loss despite millions of rands worth of dairy equipment having been supplied and installed.
Delaval supplied Grace Mugabe with the dairy equipment imported mainly from Germany, Sweden and Poland.
The company’s national spokesperson, Rykie Visser, did not respond to the Daily News’s various messages and voice mail messages. However, on Tuesday Delaval’s international spokesperson and vice-president of marketing and communications, Benoit Passard, said they became aware of who they were doing business with only after reading recent articles in various newspapers about the sale.
When asked why the company had completed a business transaction with Zimbabwe and the Mugabe family despite sanctions, he said: “We regret that this has happened. We first made contact with the SA Dairy Association and then a long list of investors. The Mugabe name was never mentioned. This has come as a surprise to us and we would never have done business with them had we known this was who we were dealing with.”
The United Nations and the European Union have placed sanctions on Zimbabwe.
Passard said they were reviewing this transaction and taking the matter very seriously. The Daily News asked if the Pinetown-based company would be taken to task for their actions. “It’s still too early in our investigation to say,” was his response.
Nestle Zimbabwe on Tuesday said it had no choice but to buy milk from Grace Mugabe’s farm because many of its suppliers had gone out of business.
This article was originally published on page 3 of The (SA) Daily News on September 30, 2009.