Deputy PM shields Made over Nestle

gushungo_dairy_farmHARARE - Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara hurriedly moved to shield Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation minister Joseph Made in Parliament last week after he....
(Pictured: Gushungo Dairy Estate, the farm at the centre of the Nestle saga)

squirmed under a tough probe on the government’s disastrous handling of the Nestle saga.

The question from Glen Norah MDC MP Gift Dzirutwe was simple: “I want the minister to update this august House on what transpired on the Nestle issue, about the produce that came from that farm.”

Mutambara immediately sprang to Made’s defence, shielding him from answering the question from the MDC legislator.

“Honourable members we are in this House with some tough questions, but I want to emphasize the government policy of tolerance and inclusiveness,” Mutambara said.

The Deputy Prime Minister said members were “reversing to a pre-inclusive government culture, please come back.” He said the Nestle saga – where an international campaign was mounted to boycott its products after it emerged that the Swiss-based company was buying 6 500 litres of milk a day from Gushungo Dairy Estate, a farm owned by the President’s wife, Grace Mugabe – had been resolved to the satisfaction of all parties involved.

Nestle re-opens

The global packed foods giant re-opened its Zimbabwe plant in December after a month-long shutdown that followed guarantees from the inclusive government regarding the security of its operations and staff following threats from President Mugabes supporters.

The Affirmative Action Group (AAG) led protests against Nestles decision to suspend milk purchases from Gushungo, while Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere alleged the company was imposing sanctions on the country.

Nestle buckled under international pressure, and attempted to stop accepting milk deliveries from Gushungo at its plant in an industrial area in Msasa on the outskirts of the capital. It was harassed.

Mutambara said: We have no policy in government where personal businesses and personal activities affect the national thrust. We must be driven by what is in the public interest that is why when that event occurred last year government had to intervene to make sure that issues affecting Nestle were addressed and the matters resolved in an amicable manner. We wanted to ensure that Nestle did not pull out of the country, and also that the produce was also protected. We want to make sure we do not allow individuals to be victimized because of political affiliation; a farm is a farm.”

A pool of milk

Prof Welshman Ncube, the Industry and Trade Minister, struck the deal that resulted in the resumption of the commercial relationship between Nestle Zimbabwe and Gushungo Dairy Estates. Under the agreement, supplies from Gushungo are now being fed into a pool of milk processed by Dairiboard Zimbabwe and other companies. Nestle Zimbabwe now buys its milk requirements from the general pool, not directly from Gushungo Dairy Estates.

“Mr Speaker, in my mind, as government policy we have the duty and obligation to protect private property, and individuals from being victimized,” Mutambara said. “At the same time, we have to make sure that whatever we do must be of national interest.”

The Deputy Prime Minister drew inaudible interjections from the House over his statement.

“Mr Speaker, this is what I am talking about. We want to make sure you allow freedom of expression precisely for the views you disagree with – otherwise you are not democrats, you are autocrats. So, in so far as the question is concerned, the national interests are protected, investment climate was protected. Nestle did not pull out of the country, they are here operating normally because of government intervention.

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