Dos Santos’ Son Shapes His Own Government

Speculation has been growing during the last few months on how José Filomeno dos Santos “Zenú”, one of the sons of Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos “Zedú”, is being positioned as his successor to the presidency.

What is not common knowledge is how Zenú has already been participating in the current management of government affairs. A recent example was the appointment, on May 6, of Armando Manuel, then economic advisor to President Zedú and chairman of the Angola Sovereign Wealth Fund, to the post of Finance minister.

Initially, Zenú suggested to his father that Armando Manuel be considered for the position of chairman of the board of directors of Sonangol, the national oil company. Sources at the presidency told Maka Angola that José Eduardo dos Santos declined the request. He pointed out to his son the lack of technical capacity and political ability of Armando Manuel to manage the complex web of financial engineering, business and political intrigues of Sonangol.

As a compromise, Zenú proposed the appointment of Armando Manuel to the post of Finance minister, to which the President agreed.

One of the objectives pursued by Zenú, indicating Armando Manuel as the chairman of the board of directors of Sonangol, would be the control of the national oil company. The Sovereign Wealth Fund, currently chaired by Zenú, receives its budget allocation from Sonangol. In turn, the national oil company has already allocated US $5 billion to the fund. The current chairman of Sonangol, Francisco de Lemos, is referred to by Zenú as a “complicated” figure, often requiring explanations about certain transactions involving Sonangol funds.

But in his capacity at the Ministry of Finance, where Sonangol’s allocations are determined, Armando Manuel is already under Zenú’s command, and not Zedú. He is in fact accountable to the former, in an act of power sharing between father and son.

To safeguard his personal power, Armando Manuel has been letting his senior officials know that he is a high level representative of the State Intelligence and Security Services (SINSE) on a mission at the Ministry of Finance. In reality, Armando Manuel acts as a Prime Minister of sorts, for Zenú, in a gradual transfer of power from father to son.

The rise of Zenú, as the chosen son of the President, has also been marked at various presidential ceremonies, where he often appears behind his father and the first lady, accompanied by his wife.

There is a notable decline to the influence exerted by Tchizé dos Santos and José Paulino dos Santos, the children of the President and Milucha Abrantes, who is the current president of the National Agency for Private Investment (ANIP).

Recently, the former director of the National Roads Institute of Angola (INEA), Joaquim Sebastião, expressed his willingness to provide US$ 30 million to one of the President’s daughters, so that she would convinced her father to appoint him as Minister of Construction. This attempted corruption initiative by Joaquim Sebastião, who accumulated a fortune of over one billion dollars while director of INEA, was a failure.

The appointment of Armando Manuel as Finance Minister also means the end of the influence of first lady Ana Paula dos Santos, whose brother, Carlos Lopes, served in that capacity until last May. Carlos Lopes is the husband of the first lady’s sister, Artemísia Cristóvão de Lemos Lopes, who, in turn, holds the position of sub-director of the Statistics Department of the Angola National Bank.

While Zenú’s power continues to grow, Vice-president Manuel Vicente, considered to be a strong candidate to the presidential succession, will continue to serve as the red herring.