From the President to his Family: The Drainage Ditch

By Alfredo Muvuma

Years ago, a high-ranking MPLA politburo member praised the business acumen of President José Eduardo’s children. More recently, the state-owned and only daily newspaper Jornal de Angola awarded Isabel dos Santos the title of entrepreneur of the year for 2012. In both cases, the objective was to sell the notion that there is a genuine business talent, within the Dos Santos’s family, to accumulate vast wealth.

Forbes places Isabel dos Santos as the first Africa’s woman billionaire, which it estimates as the value of her legitimate shares in UNITEL, BIC Bank and in Portugal.

Meanwhile, the State Budget Bill for 2013, passed days ago by the National Assembly, uncovers the farce: there is no mystery behind the enrichment of the Dos Santos clan and its entourage. Article 11 of the bill explains, in part, how the Angolan president and his cronies accumulate fortunes without sweating, much less without overloading their neurons.

Maka Angola has examined  the purpose and scope of the referred legal disposition. Briefly, as the head of Government, and author of the budget proposal, José Eduardo dos Santos requested, and was granted carte blanche by the National Assembly, to continue to manage public funds as he saw fit and without any transparency requirements.

In today’s world, it is almost impossible to identify any other country whose president requested and was granted licence to plunder state coffers in broad daylight and in full view. The bill, as it is, amounts to plunder.

To meet the financial demands of any of his children or close relatives, JES does not need to tax his brains. He merely needs only to invoke national or external security needs or threats. Under this vast umbrella, the President of the Republic has the authority to create as many funds and companies as he likes, to accommodate members of his family, cronies and an ever growing list of lackeys. He can create funds containing more money than the actual budget itself. The article imposes absolutely no restrictions or limits to José Eduardo dos Santos.

The President of the Republic has converted the budget into his principal, but by no means single, source of illicit enrichment.

Dos Santos did not require such explicit permission from the National Assembly to create Angola’s Sovereign Wealth Fund, whose management and endowment of US $5 billion were entrusted to his son Filomeno “Zenú”. The enrichment of the presidential family has nothing to do with entrepreneurship or business acumen, rather it is the result of schemes designed to effectively privatise the State.

He frequently uses his position as President of the Republic to whimsically approve investment contracts that benefit his own family.

When not appropriating public funds , political and economic blackmail have also been used to force successful companies to hand over a considerable percentage of their business to the economic interests of the presidential family. The Angolan Bank of Foment (BFA- Banco de Fomento Angola) was in danger of losing the accounts of all the relevant public Angolan institutions and companies. In order to avoid this risk, BFA was obliged to yield 49 per cent of its shares to UNITEL, whose majority shareholder is Isabel dos Santos. Since then, José dos Santos’s firstborn is also a board director of the bank.

The awarding of contracts, without public tender, for the provision of goods and services to the State , is also another preferred model for the presidential clan’s illicit enrichment. It was through the use of this method that Channel 2 of Angolan Public Television (TPA– Televisão Pública de Angola), as well as its International Channel, were practically donated to Welwitschea “Tchizé” dos Santos and her brother José Paulino dos Santos “Coreon Dú”.

The budget, which will come into effect on February 14, assigns almost US $60 million to these two children of the President. This money will be channelled to José Eduardo dos Santos’s loved ones through GRECIMA. GRECIMA is the Portuguese acronym for the Office for the Revitalization and Implementation of the Administration’s Institutional Communication and Marketing, a shady department within the Presidency. Manuel Rabelais, against whom there are criminal proceedings for corruption during his years as Information minister, leads GRECIMA. President José Eduardo dos Santos therefore granted immunity to Manuel Rabelais, now occupying the post with the rank of Secretary of State, an equivalent to deputy-minister.

GRECIMA is a body that has usurped the authority of the Information minister. In practice, Tchizé and Coreon Dú run GRECIMA. In turn, GRECIMA transfers the funds to Semba Comunicação, the company owned by the same President’s children, which for years has the contract to improve the regime’s image.

The 2013 budget also delivers a further US $50 million into the hands of the abovementioned siblings. The funds are earmarked for them to indulge in their favourite pastime, which is playing at being television managers and producers. Through  abuse of power and nepotism, the President’s children privately control the second and the international channels of the public television.

TPA and GRECIMA together, by means of contracts with Semba Comunicação, place almost US $110 million into the hands of Dos Santos’s heirs. This figure is higher than the US $90 million which the Information Ministry has to run TPA, the Angolan National Radio (RNA), , the Angolan News Agency (ANGOP), the national daily newspaper Jornal de Angola, Centro de Imprensa (Press Center), CEFOJOR and other agencies under its management.

This is yet another shocking demonstration of misappropriation of funds belonging to the people of Angola. The hopes held by some naïve people that President Dos Santos can lead the country for the good of the people are fast evaporating

Within the judicial systems of modern countries, plunder and misappropriation of public funds are crimes. It is not different in Angola. But in this country, Members of Parliament must give their seal of approval for such crimes to be institutionalized. The People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) parliamentarians, who hold 175 of the 220 seats, are accomplices in the large-scale theft of the state coffers by the Dos Santos’ family. MPLA has been in power for 37 years, since independence in 1975, and it is presided by Dos Santos since 1979, the year he became President of the Republic, upon the death of the first President Agostinho Neto.