By Simplicious Chirinda
HARARE – A Zimbabwean black empowerment pressure group on Wednesday said international milk processor Nestle should be forced to sell its Harare subsidiary to local blacks if the firm refuses to buy milk from a farm owned by President Robert Mugabe’s wife, Grace.
The Affirmative Action Group (AGG) – whose members are closely linked to Mugabe’s ZANU PF party – said Nestle’s refusal to buy milk from Grace’s Gushungo farm was part of a “foreign regime change agenda” and said the firm should not be allowed to continue embarrassing the President’s family.
Mugabe often accuses Western powers of seeking to oust him as punishment for his controversial land reform programme which saw the government seizing white-owned farmland for redistribution to blacks.
Grace was allocated Gushongo under her husband’s land reforms that also saw senior members of ZANU PF, their friends and allies – including many members of the AAG – handed some of the best farms seized from whites.
“This is unacceptable (Nestle’s refusal to buy milk from Gushungo),” AGG secretary general Tafadzwa Musarara told journalists in Harare.
He added: “We are going to make sure that Nestle buys Gushungo milk. It is clear that Nestle is perpetuating a foreign regime change agenda. We are demanding that with immediate effect Nestle must be indigenised.”
There was no immediate reaction from Nestle to the AAG statement.
Nestle this month stopped buying milk from Gushungo farm following an international media outcry over the firm’s business dealings with the Mugabes and threats by consumer watchdogs to call for a boycott of the company’s products.
The firm’s bank accounts were temporarily frozen by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe which said the action was part of a routine check meant to sniff out financial irregularities. But observers saw the move as a warning to Nestle that Harare was unhappy with the decision to stop buying milk from Mugabe’s wife.
About a week ago ZANU PF youths drove a milk tanker to Nestle’s Harare factory and tried to force company officials to buy the milk but they refused. However the involvement of the AAG that has over the years led harassment of private firms perceived as anti-Mugabe could mean more trouble for Nestle.
But the AAG threats against Nestle will also dampen investor interest in Zimbabwe especially coming at a moment the country’s coalition government appears in deep trouble following Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai his MDC party’s decision to boycott ZANU PF.
The southern African country’s economy, which has been on a free-fall for the past decade, badly needs foreign investment to recover. – ZimOnline