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Zimbabwe's 1st Indian MP seeks closer ties with 'home'

by Staff reporter
04 Feb 2020 at 05:42hrs | Views
For a young Gujarati hailing from a humble background, becoming a central government minister of a foreign country is beyond wildest imagination. But, not for Raj Modi who was born in 1959 in the small town of Rajpipla in Gujarat.

Deputy Minister Modi migrated to Zimbabwe in 1981 and climbed up the ladder from being a department store worker to an industrialist. In 2018, he was appointed Deputy Minister of Industry and Commerce by President Mnangagwa.  How the journey started

After completing graduation in arts, Modi took up a job with Gujarat State Electricity Board and soon got married to Parul, who hailed from Zimbabwe. Modi first visited his wife's family in Zimbabwe in 1981 with two pairs of clothes, $50 and a return ticket. During the visit, his father-in-law passed away, compelling him to stay back.

Talking to the Mirror, Modi said, "I worked as a general worker in the beginning at a super store. The job required sweeping and mopping the floors and even clean toilets among other things at a monthly salary of $100. I also delivered goods to customers' residences."

Today, Raj Modi is one of the most respected businessmen in Zimbabwe owning eight supermarkets, a liquor factory with interests in mining and other businesses.  The political journey

After settling in Zimbabwe, Modi joined Zanu-PF which has been the ruling party since the country's independence in 1980. As a card-carrying member, he participated in party activities and assumed several positions.

Ahead of the July 2018 elections, Modi got the Zanu-PF ticket to contest polls from Bulawayo South constituency where the party had never won elections.

The constituency bears a negligible Indian community. Despite all the odds, Modi created history by becoming the first Indian in Zimbabwe to become a Member of Parliament.

According to Modi, he won thanks to his long-run charity activities for the locals. After becoming successful in business, he held education and sports sponsorship camps and organised free health checks and treatments.

Post his election as MP, President Mnangagwa appointed him Deputy Minister of Industry and Commerce. Barring Pravin Gordhan of South Africa, Modi is the only Indian to have become a Minister in an African country.

The way ahead Talking to the Mirror, Modi said, "I'm a patriotic Zimbabwean, but being a Gujarati by birth I'm making efforts for Gujarati businessmen to flourish in Zimbabwe. During my trip to Gujarat recently, I held talks with several Gujarati industrialists and businessmen to explain the opportunities available to them in my country."

According to Raju Dhruv, whose Pandit Din Dayal Foundation organised the business meet, Modi talked at length with the gathering of businessmen where he assured them of peace, safety and total state support to set up businesses in Zimbabwe. According to Modi, there are huge opportunities in the fields of solar power, mining, pharmacy, agriculture and tourism infrastructure among others.

Following the meeting, he said he was upbeat about the proposals received. When asked whether any concrete proposals were under consideration, he said, "Gujarat's Meghmani Group has expressed interest in setting up a chemical plant in Zimbabwe. Gujarat-based Drashta Power has shown interest in supplying and assembling solar products in Zimbabwe. A business delegation of investors has also been planned to fly to Zimbabwe in February." 

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