All Aboard the Gravy Train

Angola’s gravy train has been rumbling along one set of tracks for the past 37 years, with all-encompassing corruption tainting the ruling MPLA party under President José Eduardo dos Santos. Those at the apex of the pyramid have diverted billions of dollars from the economy to their own bank accounts, while ensuring the loyalty of those beneath them by dispensing cash, goods and favors as needed. With just over two months to go to the presidential election that will see a change of leadership, members of the National Assembly (Angola’s parliament) are being given a sign that it will be ‘business as usual’. The National Assembly is chaired by veteran MPLA politburo member, Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos “Nandó”. Nandó is a rather sinister character with a smile likened to that of a cat which has just devoured its prey. His official job titles (police chief, Interior Minister, Prime […]

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All the President’s Children

Are you suffering from corruption fatigue? Yes, it gets to us all. There is just so much of it. Everywhere. Shameless, unethical, immoral, illegal, self-serving behavior is rampant. From the USA to North Korea, it seems few countries are immune to the self-enriching predations of the “one-percenters”. So how should we react to the news that the jobless, student, twenty-something year-old child of an ageing African dictator threw down €500,000 on a charity bid just so he could be photographed alongside some Hollywood stars like Will Smith? Before you yawn and turn the page, consider this. While this pampered princeling was quaffing champagne at the AMFAR gala in Cannes, dozens of his fellow countrymen of all ages were dying unnecessarily for lack of the most basic medicine and medical equipment. That’s because his country’s oil wealth has been siphoned off year after year, leaving little in the state budget for […]

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The Power Behind Cabinda’s Power Stations

Why would Angola’s President José Eduardo dos Santos issue a presidential decree (25/17) in February this year to award an estimated US $200 million r contract for a 100 Megawatt bi-fuel power station in Cabinda to an unknown entity named “Vavita Power S.A.”? It’s a sweet deal: as spelled out in that presidential decree, it is a renewable 25- year arrangement accompanied by purchase guarantees, thanks to an Energy Acquisition Contract (Contrato de Aquisição de Energia, CAE) that obliges future governments to buy whatever energy is produced for the National Grid (Rede Nacional de Transporte, RNT). So far as industry experts have been able to ascertain, Vavita is what they call a ‘ghost’ company, based in the central headquarters of a bank with no branches. They wonder why Angola’s President would entrust an unknown company with the task of constructing and operating another dual-fuel thermoelectric power station for Cabinda. Although […]

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The Death Knell for Freedom of the Press in Angola

January 23, 2017 will go down in the annals of Angola as the day on which freedom of the press died. This was the day Angola’s new media legislation was published – a basket of five individual laws introducing a regulating body and stringent controls on journalists, the internet, the press, radio and television broadcasting. The new media laws have been rushed into being six months ahead of crucial presidential and parliamentary elections this year and it is feared their purpose is to ensure that the only information allowed to reach the Angolan public, toes the ruling-MPLA’s party line. In a page straight out of the German Nazi propaganda playbook dreamt up by Carl Schmitt, the new rules and regulations are so general and ambiguous that their interpretation depends on case-by-case ruling by the minister, a judge or similar. Freedom of the Press henceforth will depend on the individual whim […]

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Unmasking the MPLA’s Very Own Apostle

Angolans witness every day that rewards flow to those who are faithful to the ruling party, the MPLA. Yet many in this nominally Christian nation might have hoped that men of the cloth would be immune to the lure of political corruption. Apparently not so. How else to explain Reverend Antunes Huambo’s recent good fortune? One day he happens to mention during a TV debate that Angola’s President, José Eduardo dos Santos should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Within days, the MPLA Governor for Luanda, General Higino Carneiro, appoints Reverend Huambo to the position of Administrator of the Urban District of the University City. Reverend Huambo’s devotion to the MPLA, which has held power for the past 41 years, can be assessed from remarks he made in December: “The red in the MPLA flag symbolizes the blood of Jesus Christ”. And this: “The MPLA is the party blessed […]

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How Much Longer, Attorney General?

How much longer, João Maria, how much longer do we have to put up with you? The Attorney General of the Republic of Angola parades through the streets of Luanda with not an ounce of shame at the conflict of interest arising from holding public office while profiting from business dealings that have come his way only because of his position. What legal and moral conflicts? He is not just a shareholder in different companies, he has also served as a manager and legal consultant (e.g. in Prestcom) in spite of the constitutional prohibition on second jobs for office-holders. Additionally, General João Maria de Sousa has neglected the fundamental and basic premise of his job: to prosecute breaches of the law. He fails to investigate legal transgressions by members of the government, turns a blind eye to incontrovertible evidence of corruption, and sits on his hands when presented with egregious […]

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Africa: Stereotypes and Western Media Brownie Points

On Saturday, Angolans were expecting an official announcement from the ruling MPLA party (which has held power for 41 years) that President José Eduardo dos Santos would not be running in the 2017 elections. Word had already been leaked to the international media who duly reported this development to the world at large – and yet inside Angola there was still no official confirmation. Not a word from the ruling party, the President or the state-controlled media. The Angola story was paired with that of the Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh, who formally conceded defeat in the presidential elections after 22 years in power. It was heralded as a strand of an emerging trend: one ailing African dictator, Dos Santos, peacefully deciding to leave office (after holding power for 37 year) while another, Jammeh, graciously accepted he has lost a democratic election. Subsequent events suggest the mainstream international media were far […]

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Oil: A Lesson in Hand-Washing for Daddy’s Girls

Pay attention Ivanka Trump: this is a fun way to ramp up your profits! First you take control of a guaranteed money-maker (or more accurately, your daddy the President hands it to you); then you make sure that you have a majority (or at least hefty) stake in the key partner companies that produce, support or market your products. It’s a no-brainer. All you need is for daddy to win political power and deal you in. This is a true story in a post-truth world. Angola’s first daughter, Isabel dos Santos, is quite peeved that media upstarts dare to question her right (birthright) to have a finger in every succulent pie in Angola’s limited buffet. When accusations of nepotism are aired, when reports document suspicious business dealings, she stamps her pretty foot and sulks: “I am a victim of political intrigue”. Anointed president of the board of the state oil […]

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Sonangol’s Billion-Dollar Headache

Evidence has reached Maka Angola that Sonangol’s debts to major oil corporations are far in excess of the US $300 million  owed to Chevron as reported last month. Faced with a Sonangol news release that noted the Chevron monies were “under review” prior to payment, other foreign creditors have grown anxious about the multi-million sums they too are owed. Maka Angola has been supplied with figures showing unpaid cash calls to three other oil majors operating in the Angolan oilfields. They reveal that as of October 2016, Sonangol owed its creditors at over one billion US dollars. To date, Sonangol has only effected payments to companies owned by associates of President José Eduardo dos Santos and his daughter, Isabel dos Santos, the current Sonangol President. President dos Santos sacked the previous Sonangol board and installed his daughter back in June, in a move that shocked the global oil industry given […]

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Angola’s Greatest Work of Fiction: The Budget

A much-lauded cartoon by Angola’s premier pictorial satirist Sérgio Piçarra recently depicted the state of the country’s economy, thanks to José Eduardo dos Santos, the country’s President for the past 37 years. In his depiction, Angola has a ‘Real Economy’, and a ‘Virtual Economy’, but there is an even third one, the ‘Fictitious Economy’. It’s a reflection of a truth: every year the Angolan state budget (Orçamento Geral de Estado) is a mixture of the actual (real), anticipated (virtual) and the ‘only on paper’ (fictitious) spending for the year ahead. Now insiders say the 2017 Budget strays even further from reality than usual. One example: Angola expects to spend more than 1.7 billion kwanzas (US $6.5 million) on maintenance of the memorial to Agostinho Neto, the country’s first post-independence president. The Soviet Union undertook the initial construction of the memorial. However, with the collapse of the USSR, the construction remained […]

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