Isabel dos Santos, the Princess-President?
I have never been taken in with fables. One such fairytale it that the current vice-president of Angola, Manuel Vicente, would succeed President José Eduardo dos Santos, who has been in power for 36 years. I always believed that the power would be eventually transferred to the son-prince José Filomeno dos Santos, whom the father appointed as head of Angola’s Sovereign Wealth Fund.
What did I see recently? The daughter-princess Isabel dos Santos was posing next to Nicki Minaj the US rapper of Anaconda fame. What business does this billionaire egg vendor, as Isabel once claimed to have been, have to do there? This is a kind of exposure that does not benefit her image as a manager or businesswoman. In any case, President Dos Santos recently appointed his billionaire daughter to lead the Luanda Metropolitan Master Plan, to revamp the capital city. The father gave a seat to the other daughter, Tchizé dos Santos, in Parliament, while another son, José Paulino, received the second channel of the public television as a toy.
There is so much excess, so many interventions from her, which are beyond any economic rationale. It reminds one of a verse from Luis de Camões, “ I embrace the world but I squeeze nothing.”
Any Donald Trump or Russian oligarch can show off his gold bracelets, his jets and private yachts painted with his name in gold; however, this seems not to be the style of Isabel dos Santos who cultivates an image of being reasonably discreet, restrained and intelligent. At least this is the impression that someone not versed in the ins and outs of the Angolan presidency will get.
What is obvious is that Isabel has increasingly begun to venture into the political sphere, which has little to do with her business. At the same time her half-brother José Filomeno dos Santos has disappeared in the swampy waters of Angola’s Sovereign Wealth Fund that is neither sovereign nor a fund.
In reality, there is a two-headed presidency in which, slowly, Jose Eduardo dos Santos is passing on his power to Isabel, the princess who is turning into a president. In this context, the t-shirt and headband in the photo with Nicki Minaj make sense. Her leadership of the Luanda PDGML will last fifteen years; the hope is that it will eventually lead to the enthronement of Isabel as president.
I do not know whether these publicity stunts have been hatched by Brazilian spin doctors or her Portuguese employees. The objective seems to make Isabel dos Santos popular to make her seem like a people’s president. The successful woman embraces the American star – the one who proclaims that Isabel’s success has motivated her.
Then we have the initiative by her husband and art collector Sindika Dokolo, on the reclaiming of two stolen Mwana Pwo carvings from an international museum and on returning them to Angola. Now the power couple is trying to express concern with African culture and the crafting of a certain identity that goes beyond the world of business.
Therefore, either there is some kind of primaries going on in the presidential family or Isabel, the Princess, is already being a co-president and will soon hold that post on her own.