Executive Jets for Manuel Vicente’s Wine

Carlos Duarte:

The vice-presidential candidate, Manuel Vicente has expensive taste in fine wines and cognacs.

From time to time, Manuel Vicente sends an executive jet to France and Portugal (the luxurious Falcon-900 or the sophisticated Falcon X-7) for the exclusive transportation of wine and cognac for his personal consumption. The flights are operated by VipAir, a company part owned by Sonangol, and no passengers are allowed to travel on those flights.

Some recent examples highlight how the current minister of State for Economic Coordination and probable successor to José Eduardo dos Santos at the presidency of the republic and the MPLA, is completely indifferent to the living conditions of the majority of Angolan citizens, who don’t even have access to clean drinking water.

In Paris, the crew of the Falcon-900, on a mission to collect wine and cognac for Manuel Vicente, was not allowed to transport a second VipAir crew who were scheduled to take another Falcon for servicing. The excuse given by the MPLA candidate’s representative to the second crew was that the flight was going to make a stopover in Lisbon, to collect more wine. Some vintage bottles of the Petrus wine acquired in Paris are available only to multimillionaires. A bottle of Petrus 1989 Magnum costs around 9,700 euros, while the Petrus 1990 Magnum costs up to 11,000 euros per bottle. Manuel Vicente’s favorite cognac, Rémy Martin Louis XIII costs on average 2,500 euros, while limited edition bottles of the same brand, also to the taste of the Angolan leader, cost over 8,000 euros each.

For several years, up to last January, Manuel Vicente held the all-powerful office of chair of the Board of Directors and CEO of Sonangol, from which he amassed, by illicit means, an incalculable personal fortune, as Maka Angola has gradually uncovered. Therefore, the many bottles of Petrus wine regularly acquired by the said Angolan leader are just a tiny sample of his opulent lifestyle.

Another similar event took place on a recent journey. On the return trip to Angola, the AirVip Falcon had to make an unscheduled landing in an African country due to a flight contingency. Given the tropical heat, Manuel Vicente personally ordered the crew to book a room in a five-star hotel so that his wine, coming from Paris, could “rest” at a temperature of 18º C (64.4° F).

Some days ago, Manuel Vicente let it be known that, even among his most important government colleagues, only a special few are allowed to enjoy his personal cellar. The minister of Defense, general Cândido Van Dúnem was traveling on the VipAir Falcon on official business in the company of the minister of State and Head of the Military Bureau, general Manuel Hélder Vieira Dias “Kopelipa”, and was offered a glass of Manuel Vicente’s Louis XIII cognac. On his next trip, without general Kopelipa on board, minister Van Dúnem asked for a glass of the same cognac, and was refused on the grounds that it was part of Manuel Vicente’s personal cellar. General Kopelipa is Manuel Vicente’s main partner in business deals worth billions of dollars in investments, resulting from corrupt dealings involving Sonangol and the presidency of the Republic.

But since Manuel Vicente’s cellar also takes care of the less-favoured, the flight crew served the minister of Defense a glass of Courvoisier instead.

This type of behavior by Manuel Vicente is morally offensive and runs contrary to the principle of probity he ought to uphold as a government official. To use a luxury executive jet paid for by Sonangol, therefore the property of the State, for the sole purpose of transporting wine and cognac to fulfill his personal whims, amounts to an incontrovertible act of corruption and lavish squandering of public funds.

Thousands of Angolan children die at birth in the ill-equipped public maternity hospitals or in the David Bernardino Pediatric Hospital of Luanda. Every morning, the Pediatric Hospital of Luanda posts a list of the names of children who have died in its care overnight. It is heart wrenching. But Manuel Vicente and his colleagues, who were born and raised in poverty, consider themselves, at best, to be detached from the suffering they cause to the Angolan people. As a general rule, they ridicule the people’s misery, to the point of the president himself publicly declaring that, when he was born, himself the son of a bricklayer and a washerwoman, “there was already poverty in Angola” and it wasn’t his fault. Certainly, these leaders must find it undignified to have to breathe the same air as the people, from whom they only need votes.