The Military Spymaster’s Niche of Corruption

The head of the Military Intelligence and Security (SISM) of the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA), general António José Maria “Zé Maria”, has been an exception to the rule among the most trusted members of the presidential inner circle. His name does not appear linked to the plundering of State assets, as is the case with President Dos Santos’ henchmen. He is, however, well known for his involvement in petty scandals, such as public order offences.

Nevertheless, an anonymous letter, posted on the internet and addressed to various leaders, including Dos Santos, provides leads to general Zé Maria’s active involvement in large-scale corruption.

On the list of accusations, is the introduction, into SISM, of a company owned by general Zé Maria’s daughter, Nyanga Viandi Tyitapeka, providing consultancy services on matters of Intelligence.

Such an accusation led Maka Angola to investigate the case.

In December 2010, the general’s daughter, as a sole owner, set up a company, Infonauta – Service Providers. The company was registered with its head office “at the home address of the trader”, according to the wording on the official registration. Ms. Tyitapeka still lives with her father. In other words, Infonauta has general Zé Maria’s own home as its business address.

In turn, general Zé Maria awarded Infonauta a contract as an intelligence service provider for SISM. An office was made available for Infonauta within SISM’s installations, and the general’s daughter was given the office that had previously been occupied by the Inspector-General of SISM. In the first year of the contract, 2011, Infonauta cashed in about US$ 4 million. Its principal activity has consisted in repackaging information gathered by SISM’s own agents, using the technical and technological support systems installed at the agency. It is common knowledge within SISM that Nyanga Tyitapeka has unfettered access to her father’s office at SISM, at any time, and make use of any information and equipment located there.

In addition to Infonauta, general Zé Maria also introduced into SISM headquarters the U.S. citizen David B. Stark, a friend and colleague of Nyanga Tytapeka’s, and his regular guest at home. .

During a conference of SISM general staff, which was held in the Hotel Continental in Luanda on March 3, 2011, David Stark openly disclosed that he was an ex-CIA operative, as claimed by the referred letter, and verified by Maka Angola.

Both the ruling MPLA and Dos Santos’s coterie encourage their members to label troublesome critics of the regime with being in collusion with the CIA. Meanwhile, David Stark and Nyanga Tytapeka, who studied at Emmanuel College and Boston University, in the U.S., have unrestricted access to the core centre of the Angolan intelligence.

Elsewhere, Nyanga Tyitapeka is also formally employed as a member of a select group of SISM translators/interpreters, for which she is paid a monthly salary equivalent to that of a colonel.

Nyanga Tytapeka’s profile

Between 2007 and 2009, a year before Infonauta was created, its founder completed a master’s degree in Energy and Environmental Studies at Boston University, in the United States. In the same country, Nyanga Tytapeka obtained a B.A.  in Political Science and Management from Emmanuel College, where she was enrolled from 2002 to 2006. Previously, from 1998 to 2001, the general’s daughter attended the Odivelas Institute in Lisbon, where she studied Economics and Management.

A few weeks after she completed her master’s degree, Nyanga Tytapeka joined the ranks of Sonangol as a consultant on environmental sustainability. She occupied this post until January 2011.

In April 2012, general Zé Maria’s daughter granted an interview to Komla Dumor of BBC Television as a businesswoman and management consultant. Nyanga Tyitapeka described Angola as a land opportunity, and stated that the professional qualifications she has on offer for interested businesses “are definitely valuable”. “I am offering services to companies that need my expertise in English, and my knowledge of the market. There are definitely lots of opportunities [in Angola], provided young people know how to take advantage of them,” she said to the BBC.

How Corruption is Promoted in the Secret Service

For the current year, SISM has a  budget of US$136.5 million more than the combined total allocated for the Agostinho Neto and José Eduardo dos Santos public universities. According to the current Law on the State Budget, general Zé Maria is accountable only to president José Eduardo dos Santos for the spending of the SISM budget.

On February 14, the National Assembly passed the Law on the State Budget for 2013, conferring on Dos Santos absolute and exclusive authority over the accountability for different security and intelligence services, including SISM (Art. 11, 1-3).

In short, the transformation of the Military Intelligence and Security Services (SISM) into a private slush fund for the illicit enrichment of general Zé Maria and his family has been authorised and personally guaranteed by the President of the Republic.

Pursuant of his strategy of gaining private dominion over SISM, general Zé Maria recently relieved 14 generals of their duties, including the then Inspector-General, José Massano. This position has yet to be filled, and the room assigned for the duties of this position is currently being used as Infonauta’s command centre.

The different branches of the intelligence and security services, such as SISM, are essential for the maintenance of Dos Santos regime itself. The use of these institutions, for the personal gain of their top officials, is a reflection of the culture of complete abandonment of a political agenda. Private interests have toppled State interests.

In order to maintain loyalties and retain control through corruption, the president has lost his grip on reality and has become a hostage of his own strategy. By weakening State institutions and distorting their functions, the President has created a situation of institutional instability that can endanger himself. In addition, the actual state of SISM, under the authority of general Zé Maria, represents a real threat to national sovereignty and to the politico-military stability of the country.

There is the rationale of institutional corruption. President Dos Santos used his position and state assets to turn his first-born daughter Isabel dos Santos into a billionaire, deserving a ranking in the Forbes’s list. Thus,  he has no authority or moral standing to prevent general Zé Maria from promoting his daughter to the category of a millionaire.