Land-Grabbing as a Path to Riches and Status in Angola
Angolan investigative journalist and human rights defender Rafael Marques de Morais has submitted a complaint to the Office of the Attorney General about the behaviour of notorious Kwanza-Sul Governor, General Eusébio de Brito Teixeira, for illegal land-grabbing.
The complaint refers to yet more illegal appropriation of rural land, after having already grabbed more than 300 square kilometers to raise cattle and farming. The Governor is suspected of three criminal offences: the unlawful transfer of land from the State to an individual; unlawfully re-designating land for real estate development as rural land; and assigning reduced value to these lands below their real commercial value (thus defrauding the State).
Documentary evidence submitted with the complaint shows that on May 22nd, 2014, in his role as Governor of Kwanza Sul province, the General made it known he had granted land surface rights to Ebrite Filhos Ltd., a company he formed with his children and in which he retains a 50% share. For the purpose of this transaction, Ebrite was represented by General Eusébio de Brito Teixeira himself. In effect, the Governor was transferring 2 hectares of State-owned land designated for rural purposes (low-value land), to himself for urban purposes (high-value land), for the construction of a residential condominium (80-KS/2014).
In this farcical merry-go-round, Ebrite was petitioning their own majority shareholder to be assigned legal rights to Chicucula beach, a parcel of coastal land which lies within the Gangula commune in the municipality of Sumbe. The land is home to a large community, which would have to be displaced to make way for Ebrite’s proposed condominium block.
This wasn’t the only parcel of land the ambitious governor would claim for his family firm: “I am respectfully asking your Excellency, Mr Governor, to kindly respond positively to my request,” runs an April 22, 2014 request from General Eusébio de Brito Teixeira (in his capacity as 50% owner and manager of Ebrite) for 48,847 sq mts in the area of Carvalhos (Gangula) in Sumbe to construct a condominium. This too was dealt with at hyper speed, with a May 4 response from General Eusébio de Brito Teixeira (in his capacity as “His Excellency, the Governor of Kwanza Sul”) kindly conceding the land in question.
And if the trick worked the first time, and the second time… why not a third time or more?
Barely one month later, on June 6th, 2014, the Sumbe municipal administrator, Americo Alves Sardinha, submitted case no 252/06.06.09/2014, with a copy to General Eusébio de Brito Teixeira (again wearing the provincial governor’s hat). It was a positive reaction from local stakeholders to another land grab proposal (made by General Eusébio de Brito Teixeira wearing his corporate hat). The land in question this time lies along National Highway 100 and next to the future university campus, a plot linked to a potentially-lucrative housing project for the city’s urban development plan.
Well of course, that wasn’t the end of it: on May 27th, 2014, yet another concession was certified, this time for the surface rights to 4 hectares of land for the construction of another condominium, submitted this time by Carlos Teixeira, the son of General Eusébio de Brito Teixeira (corporate) while General Eusébio de Brito Teixeira (Governor) approved it.
Observers note that there are many such cases of political officials enriching themselves while thumbing their noses at the law – but rarely are the transactions quite so blatant. Did the General simply assume that no-one would notice that he was transferring portions of state land to himself? Perhaps he thought this was small beer compared to other, more senior political figures in Angola. Sadly for him, he failed to fly under the radar. Increasingly, Angolans are questioning their leaders and beginning to file complaints.
“President dos Santos’ regime has made the society believe that corruption is a way of life, and the only way to riches and social status. All it is required of people is to be loyal to the president to benefit from impunity”, said Rafael Marques de Morais.
“That is why it is paramount to do more than expose corruption by lodging criminal complaints to break the culture of fear and promote the rule of law. There is no freedom of press or freedom of expression where there is no rule of law”, he added.