Raj Modi — an authentic politician who understands people’s needs

24 Jun, 2018 - 00:06 0 Views
Raj Modi —  an authentic politician who understands people’s needs Raj Modi greets President Mnangagwa during the Cowdray Park Shopping Complex groundbreaking

The Sunday News

Raj Modi greets President Mnangagwa during the Cowdray Park Shopping Complex groundbreaking

Raj Modi greets President Mnangagwa during the Cowdray Park Shopping Complex groundbreaking

Stanford Chiwanga, Sunday News Reporter
ONE of Bulawayo’s highly revered businessmen and leaders of development, one whose name certainly occupies a pride of place in the city’s  history, indeed, within the context of Bulawayo’s recent political evolution, Cde Raj Modi obviously needs no introduction.

Apart from his business acumen and philantropic work, Cde Modi is a family man, married with three children and three grandchildren. The humble and unassuming Cde Modi has dared to enter the lion’s den to contest for the Bulawayo South House of Assembly seat as a candidate for the ruling party Zanu-PF. The much he has done in so little a time to develop his constituency means Cde Modi has ascended the stage as a political leader of note and will remain so for a long time.

Cde Modi has committed over $40 000 towards the refurbishment of the derelict Sidojiwe Hostels in Belmont. The hostels are in a dilapidated state as most of the basic amenities are broken down, leaving the 500 occupants staying under squalid conditions.

The refurbishment work covers installation of new flash toilets, showers, renovation of laundry rooms, and replacement of broken window panes and repairing of the lighting system at the three blocks. Residents at Sidojiwe use the bucket system in their toilets while over 1 000 window panes are broken and need replacement.

Self-effacing, soft-spoken and with an amiable mien, Cde Modi hardly cuts the picture of a political firebrand. But like a bolt from the fog of obscurity he has dared to seize the political limelight with the ease and nimbleness of a stage magician and is succeeding in bringing under his spell the hearts and minds of the people of Bulawayo South Constituency who are only too glad to identify themselves with his development centred campaign strategy.

Particularly worthy of note about the man, is the general belief that on the question of empowering his constituency, he probably stands head and shoulder above his peers. Cde Modi has partnered an India-based firm, Kanti Council Services (KCS) to set up a $7 million solar equipment manufacturing factory in Belmont, Bulawayo. And he has promised that the majority of the people he will employ will be from Bulawayo South. The company is expected to employ close to 200 people.

His unique selling proposition is that he can find the common ground to keep the people together and present a positive message at the next election that grows party support beyond its base.  He appears to be one of the few looking beyond the July 30 vote to the next election.

“My approach to this entire campaign is not to say and do anything that I wouldn’t be proud to stand behind 2023 in front of voters who are not going to vote Zanu-PF. I care about everyone in Bulawayo South regardless of the party they support or their criticism of my decision to stand,” he said.

This consensual approach is not contrived — “it’s authentic, it’s who I am,” he said. His geniality explains why his colleagues voted him to stand and why even staunch opposition supporters admit that he is the ideal candidate. Cde Modi sees himself as best placed to represent the constituency in Parliament as he focuses on the development issues that bind them together and glossing over those that divide them.

He is big on health issues and has provided free medical care for the people of Bulawayo South. On 17 July, a second health screening, sponsored by Cde Modi, will be held at Bellevue Choppies where four doctors and four nurses will attend to the sick.

Cde Raj Modi with wife during the Cowdray Park Shopping Complex groundbreaking ceremony. Sitting behind them is Indian Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Rungsung Masakui (with garland)

Cde Raj Modi with wife during the Cowdray Park Shopping Complex groundbreaking ceremony. Sitting behind them is Indian Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Rungsung Masakui (with garland)

“Bulawayo South has people who cannot afford a doctor’s appointment. There are widows, old people, the unemployed and orphans who need medical care and I am trying to the best of my ability to bring healthcare to a people who have been neglected by their representatives. What’s more important is what you are doing for the people, not what you promise to do because promises can be broken. What did the past MPs do after they were voted into Parliament for this area?” he asked.

One policy to which there is a clear personal commitment is support for empowerment projects in the constituency. Cde Modi is offering to pay for driving lessons for youths and has invited youths to come up with business ideas that he will help support.

“A driver’s licence is empowering, youths can be career drivers for companies. Those that have businesses that are already existing but struggling, I can help them to thrive. Some have brilliant ideas but they have no finances. We can’t be motivated by money and power. Showing a genuine concern for people — that is how we get to a broader audience.

Cde Raj Modi handing over foodstuffs to Bulawayo residents

Cde Raj Modi handing over foodstuffs to Bulawayo residents

“Before you talk about national politics, talk about grassroots and grassroot politics is about people at a household and community level. That’s the side of our policies I speak about, but of course I have to highlight the vision of Zanu-PF and President Mnangagwa which is about making Zimbabwe a prosperous country.”

He says he is in a “very competitive” spot to triumph and believes his strong stance on development will catapult him higher in subsequent ballots. The unassuming, but confident Cde Modi, admitted he hated talking about himself.

“People should not vote for me because I am Modi, but because of what I can do for them. I offer servant leadership.”
In Zimbabwe it is almost a bigger failure to be judged a “quiet” performer than to be judged incompetent. Zimbabweans want “big characters”. That Cde Modi projects an image which seems the antithesis of what we understand by charismatic, doesn’t of course, actually make him a poor candidate. He is rightly celebrated for setting up successful businesses that have created employment for many in Zimbabwe. The fragile economy required him to be a master tactician on business deals and for years that’s what absorbed his energy more than playing politics. When other businesses were shutting down, his were thriving.

But the point to ponder is that  Cde Modi has been able to connect effectively with his electorate. The people of Bulawayo South of course, have good reason to disdain showy, flashy people and clever talkers in positions of power.

And it could be argued that the people of Bulawayo South are just being pragmatic and thinking about themselves for a change. Why would they not want to vote Cde Modi for a more excitable character, when he promises to be a safe pair of hands that will better their lives?

Maybe there is something else at play. Have voters been convinced that the alpha, loud and great talking political parties they voted for in the past do not lead to greater insight or effectiveness? It is possible that the people of Bulawayo South have grown to love Cde Modi because, as some claim, he is a blank canvas. Or, could it be they have unconsciously developed a more evolved way of thinking about politics that is gradually having no place for politicians who rely on their presidential candidates for a vision. Wouldn’t it be healthy for our democracy if we could bust the myth of charismatic leadership? Good performers make great television, but we might do better to put our trust in conscientiousness, tenacity, the ability to take heed more than risk and in a leader more comfortable in their office, solving problems than glittering in the spotlight with noting tangible to show for it.

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