Archive for the ‘Central in English’ Category

Written by Louise Redvers and “snatched” from OSISA’s blog, the original article can be found here


On the sidelines of the recent United Nations General Assembly meetings in New York, Angola invited investors to a business forum. Vice President Manuel Vicente – who remains under the scrutiny of the US regulator, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) regarding ownership of oil shares – told his audience how the country was “experimenting with a process of political and economic transformation which is consolidating the democratic institutions.”

The former Sonangol CEO stressed that the government was working hard to “implement measures that guarantee sustainable development, economic growth, population growth, employment and social justice, through equal opportunities for all citizens and fair distribution of the national revenue.”

I’m sure it was a well-attended event. As Africa’s second-largest oil producer, Angola offers significant investment rewards – and I imagine many business cards were swapped and follow-up meetings planned.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, while Vicente, who was deputizing for President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who after 34 years in power appears to believe global summits are beneath him and hence rarely travels, waxed lyrical about the nation’s achievements, Angola’s democracy ‘experiment’ didn’t appear to be going so well.

On September 12 in an incident revealing anything but the aforementioned social justice, 17-year-old Manuel Chivonde Baptista ‘Nito Alves’ was arrested for printing t-shirts with a slogan deemed ‘defamatory’ to the President. According to the state-owned Televisao Publica De Angola (TPA) the youngster had been “caught red-handed trying to take the country back to war”.

The t-shirts, it was claimed, were intended to be worn by members of a youth protest group, which had announced some weeks earlier they were going to stage a public demonstration. The aim of the event, among other things, was to complain about the length of dos Santos’ tenure, and voice concerns about continued forced evictions and demolitions, violence against street vendors, the unequal distribution of the country’s oil wealth and the continued disappearance of two activists, who vanished from a protest in May 2012.

What happened next has been well-told by international media, including Reuters and AFP and equally loudly condemned by Human Rights Watch and others. But in summary:

The day before the protest, which was planned for September 19, Police spokesman Aristofanes dos Santos used national television to warn the group not to assemble. Claiming that the event would threatening public security and citing leaflets that asked people to attend with weapons (leaflets the organisers denied producing) he said, “We will prevent, I repeat, vehemently prevent all acts against public order and security and we will use force if necessary.”

The spokesman stressed that the clampdown would not violate constitutional rights, which allow freedom of assembly and expression, but was necessary because the gathering threatened law and order.

In the end, only a dozen of so young people turned up at Praça da Independência, the spot where Angola’s first president, Agostinho Neto, declared his country’s independence from Portugal on November 11, 1975.

The police were waiting for them, in numbers which some say stretched to 2,000, though perhaps several hundred would have been more accurate. Still as well as the riot squad, it was reported there were heavily-armed Rapid Intervention Police (known as Ninjas for their masked appearance), mounted officers, dog teams and – it was claimed – a helicopter circling overhead.

Needless to say, the protest didn’t last long and within hours, more than 20 people were in custody and the square had been cleared – and the public security threat of a handful of young people carrying banners had been removed. This type of heavy-handed and over-the-top response exposes Angola as an authoritarian regime that not only cannot tolerate criticism, but is also so paranoid that it cannot bear to allow people to speak freely.

Unsurprisingly, this is not the Angola you see in the promotional videos that run on CNN, or the one that is portrayed at investment conferences. And it is somewhat ironic that the authorities’ attempts to block the protest and silence the young people involved should have led to such a stream of negative international headlines – and helped to spread their message much further than a peaceful demonstration ever would.

Perhaps the biggest mistake the police made was to detain journalists. On September 20, Rafael Marques de Morais, who runs the MakaAngola website, Alexandre Solombe Neto, President of the Angola chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) in Angola and Vice President of the country’s Journalist Union, and Coque Mukuta, a reporter with the Voice of America Portuguese Service, were seized by armed police as they tried to interview the recently-released protestors outside a Luanda courthouse.

Surely given all the money Angola spends on publicity campaigns and secret information services, it must know that arresting an internationally-renowned anti-corruption campaigner, a senior member of its journalist union and a correspondent for one of the world’s biggest broadcasters is a bad idea?

Marques’s detailed and erudite description of his time in custody and the mistreatment he suffered rang a number of international alarm bells – and soon Reporters without Borders and Committee to Protect Journalists had joined the chorus of condemnation, alongside other local journalists who also voiced their outrage.

While Marques, Solome and Mukuta were released on the day of their arrest, the seven protesters held with them were kept in custody until September 23 when they were bailed for a collective US$15,400. (If you want to contribute to the bail fund, you can find more information here.)

This protest and its associated arrests may seem insignificant in the wake of the Westgate Mall siege in Kenya, or the Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria, both of which have claimed scores of lives. But what this incident reveals about Angola is important.

It tells us that the rights and freedoms that the government likes to boast about to potential investors, such as those in New York last month, are rather selectively enjoyed.

We see a police force that is prepared to use live television to threaten its own citizens, taking the actions of a dozen young people apparently more seriously that the wave of violent crime that has lately swept the capital. We see citizens arrested without cause. And we see a state media full of journalists who are prepared to parrot regime propaganda without question, so long as they keep getting paid.

But the Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA) knows it cannot rely forever on crackdowns and clever exploitation of people’s memories of the civil war. It knows that it needs to get the youth on its side. Young people now make up two fifths of the population. These are future voters and unless things start to change and the much-hyped economic diversification plan actually starts to bear fruit then they will be the future long-term unemployed with a lot less to lose than their war-weary parents.

In June, as part of a campaign to respond to growing disenchantment, dos Santos invited a group of young people to his pink presidential palace. Described as an ‘open dialogue’ (although the awkward photograph carried on the front of the Jornal de Angola the next day seems to suggest anything but), dos Santos told his audience – most of whom were not born when he began his term in office – that he was listening to their concerns.

The 71-year-old, whose daughter Isabel has recently become Africa’s first female billionaire and whose son Jose Filomeno runs the country’s Sovereign Wealth Fund, stressed his government’s commitment to young people, job creation and equity of opportunity. He called for everyone to keep talking and he said it was better to engage in dialogue than take to the streets to protest.

And just days before this latest round of arrests, dos Santos spoke at another youth event, telling 3,000 delegates from around the county that everyone needed to work together as active citizens.

All these words are noble, but they will no doubt be ringing hollow for the bailed protestors and their families, as well as for 17-year-old Nito Alves, who was allegedly kept in solitary confinement for two weeks following his arrest. (Click here to sign a petition calling for his release.)

If dos Santos really believes young people are so important to the development of Angola, it is about time he started listening to all of them, not just those voices he wants to hear.

I am sure there will be people who read this and say I am giving too much of a platform to a tiny majority, a handful of disaffected youth, and that the majority of the population is firmly behind the government and that the country has progressed in great economic leaps and bounds since the end of its war in 2002.

And I agree that these protestors are not many in number, but if they didn’t have something important to say, then I don’t think they would have been victim to such a large-scale clampdown.

By Louise Redvers

A equipa da Central vem por esta agradecer ao grande serviço prestado à Nação e ao mundo por S. Exª Camarada Eng.º Arqº da Paz Guia Imortal Adjunto Comandante-em-chefe Presidente José Eduardo “Kitumba” dos Santos, ao submeter-se pela primeira vez em 22 anos a um questionário previamente estudado ao qual se chamou de entrevista, oferecendo-nos a evidência definitiva da sua caducidade e necessidade urgente de passar à reforma.

Foi uma fantástica exibição de esterilidade de ideias, de incapacidade retórica, de inexperiência na submissão à incómoda posição de entrevistado (repararam nas primeiras perguntas como os olhos dele de cabulão andaram desesperadamente à procura dos dados estatísticos inventados?), de desconexão total com a realidade daqueles que pretende governar, do cinismo que não mais consegue dissimular atrás daquele risinho, da incoerência no discurso (ao mesmo tempo que enuncia a formação de quadros como sendo o maior feito do seu governo, sublinha a gritante falta de quadros anunciando que as portas estão escancaradas à imigração), um autêntico fogo-de-artifício de lugares-comuns e um carnaval de insultos à inteligência dos angolanos.

Não iremos ressaltar a “curiosidade” de ter privilegiado uma cadeia televisiva internacional para uma tão exclusiva cedência, nem dar-nos ao trabalho de refutar as ridículas acusações que nos foram endereçadas pois são de tal modo descabidas que seria preciso um esforço colossal para alguém ainda engolir essa historieta da carochinha, ou a voluntária cegueira militante que parece obrigatória para quem deseje singrar ladjum. Preferimos deixar as imagens falarem por si e lamentar que a SIC não tenha feito uma reportagem semelhante para contrapor a maquilhagem do progresso e Estado Social que o Henrique “sorriso chinês” Cimmerman ajudou a fazer.

(English translation below)

The Central team thanks the great service offered to the Nation and the world by His Excellency Comrade Engineer Architect of Peace Immortal Guide Adjunct Commander-in-Chief President José Eduardo “Kitumba” dos Santos, in submitting himself for the first time in 22 years to a previously-studied questionnaire, so-called interview, offering us definitive evidence of having past his expiration date and the urgent necessity of his retirement.

It was a fantastic exhibition of the sterility of ideas, of rhetorical incapacity, of inexperience in submitting to the uncomfortable position of the interviewee (note how in the first questions his eyes followed his cheat sheet desperately seeking invented statistical data?), of total disconnect from the reality of those he pretends to govern, of the cynicism that can no longer be hidden behind that little laugh, of the incoherence in the discourse (at the same time that he announces the education of cadres as the great achievement of his government, he underlines the screaming lack of skilled cadres when announcing that the doors are thrown open to immigration), an authentic fireworks of clichés and a carnival of insults to the intelligence of Angolans.

We will refrain from emphasizing the ‘curiosity’ of having privileged an international television station for such an exclusive offering, nor will we go to the trouble of refuting the ridiculous accusations that were addressed to us, they were so without basis that it would take a colossal effort for someone to swallow this old wive’s tale, or a militant voluntary blindness that seems obligatory for one who wants to succeed ‘inside’. We prefer to let the images speak for themselves and we regret that SIC did not report something similar to counterpose the makeup of progress and the Social State that Henrique ‘Chinese smile’ Cimmerman helped to create.

Angola is a country that has been ruled by the same party, the MPLA, since independence in 1975. The party has effectively transformed itself from a socialist bloc into a purely capitalistic organization with a diverse array of business interests and impressive market-savvy, all thanks to the barrels upon barrels of oil the country has been endowed with. In order to even begin to understand Angola’s politics however, one must first attempt to comprehend just how powerful and ubiquitous the MPLA is. O MPLA é o povo, e o povo é o MPLA (“The MPLA is the people, and the people are the MPLA”) is one of their most cherished slogans, originating from the time Angola was a single-party state between 1975-1992. If even just symbolically, it effectively demonstrated that in the MPLA psyche there was not even a need to separate between party and state and citizenry. The slogan speaks to the core about how the MPLA is so ingrained in Angolan civil society.

The country’s flag and the ruling party’s flags are virtually indistinguishable, all 18 provincial governors are appointed by the President and belong to the ruling party, and virtually all Ministers, government officials, judges, professors in state universities, and journalists in state media belong to the MPLA. Even Akwá, arguably Angola’s greatest professional football player, appeared in an election campaign ad for the MPLA dressed in the full national team uniform and scored a penalty kick after an overweight player dressed in UNITA’s colors had missed his. Akwá then became a Member of Parliament for the MPLA.

People in Angola usually blame the opposition for allowing this hegemony to go on unchecked, claiming that they are weak, bereft of ideas, and just as corrupt as those who they want to depose. Although true for some of the parties out there, most people are simply not aware of opposition party activities because these activities are not broadcast in national media. And when they are, the material is usually manipulated so that it loses its impact. In effect, the opposition is blockaded in traditional media.

Since the 2012 elections however, the opposition parties have showed renewed vigor and strength. Perhaps buoyed by their improvement in the polls (in 2008 MPLA won the elections with 82% of the vote to UNITA’s 10%, while in 2012 they only managed 72% to UNITA’s 19% and CASA-CE’s 6%), they have become more active in Parliament and more adept at ruffling party feathers. Last month for example, CASA-CE went beyond merely complaining about the murky circumstances behind the new Angolan Sovereign Wealth Fund, arguing that the President did not have the power to arbitrarily create new funds by decree, and actually took the issue to court (it was defeated, of course).

At the beginning of last week UNITA went where no opposition had gone before: they lodged a criminal complaint against President dos Santos and several senior members of the MPLA for charges related to the most recent elections, which the opposition and several rights groups consider to have been seriously flawed. Among the several charges against the President and his collaborators is the charge of High Treason.

What’s always fascinating to watch when such opposition initiatives occur is MPLA’s reaction. It usually goes something like this: within days the MPLA will issue a statement that will be reproduced in all state media, including the country’s only daily newspaper, the country’s news agency (ANGOP), state radio, state and private television, and private newspapers. Subsequently, Angolans from all walks of life will come forth and repudiate whatever it is that the Party is repudiating. It is truly a sight to see and a testament to just how much control the MPLA has over the national discourse. Sports stars, musicians, party spokespeople, members of parliament, television stars, and, much more worryingly, priests and other religious figures come out in support of whatever it is that the party is supporting at the moment. Even semi-literate kuduro artist Nagrelha has been asked for his views on matters of national policy (he sided with the ruling party).

In the blanket coverage and universal repudiation that ensues, there is no room for public discourse on the matter. There is no second opinion, no dispute of facts. There is no debate, no argument. The other voices in the conversation are simply not heard – it’s almost as if they don’t even exist. Tension is ramped up and before long the rhetoric of war is brought up. The party of the Architect of Peace, as dos Santos has come to be known by, invariably invokes the war rhetoric. Just last Friday for example, the ex-UNITA co-founder who went over to the MPLA in 2008 alluded to the war and said that UNITA should just be glad that they are still alive and thank dos Santos’ for his magnanimity.

Perhaps most distressing of all for our young democracy is MPLA’s mostly explicit but sometimes also subtle reinforcement that questioning the powers that be, debating their policies, making use of our rights, courts and institutions and otherwise participating in the democratic process as concerned citizens (or political parties) is somehow a danger to the stability of the country and could plunge it back into war (note the recurring war theme). It’s no secret that corruption is rife in Angola and trust in our public institutions is now woefully low. An engaged and critical civil society is necessary for the normal functioning of a State and is an integral part of the democratic fabric of a nation. So are strong institutions that have the respect and support of said civil society.

Unfortunately, the government abhors the former and has disenfranchised the latter.

Angola is a nation of bright minds, brilliant writers, exceptional musicians, and a civil society that, almost 11 years after war’s end, is ready to have its voice heard. It’d be nice if the government understood that. It’d be nice if they ceased with controlling all aspects of national discourse and national media and treated us as a democratic society that is capable of free-thought. It’d be nice if they respected us as citizens.


*Also available on Africa is a Country

O nosso centraleiro Cláudio Silva escreveu este artigo (em inglês) para os manos do Africa is a Country. O artigo foi depois retomado pelo jornal britânico The Guardian. O artigo foi escrito há quase um mês, mas nós na nossa eterna kunanguice só estamos a postar agora. Continua relevante. Boa leitura!

Our ‘centraleiro’ Cláudio Silva wrote this article for a site we enjoy reading, Africa is a Country. The article was then picked up by British newspaper The Guardian. The article in question is almost a month old, and in our eternal laziness we are only posting about it now. It remains highly relevant. Happy reading!

“Angolan authorities forced to act after horrific abuse videos go viral”

For the past two weeks, Angolans who use Facebook and other social media sites viewed and shared two particularly gruesome videos. One showed prison officials severely beating incarcerated men in the Comarca de Viana (Viana Jail), while the other, even more heinous, showed several men brutally beating and abusing two women who had allegedly attempted to steal a bottle of Moët & Chandon from the shop the men owned. The latter video lasts 13 long, uncomfortable minutes and among its more difficult scenes is the one in which an attacker forcibly kisses one of the women while the others laugh, and another in which the shop-owner beats the women with the blade of a machete. The video shows several men participating in the beating, while others, including women, stand by and watch while egging on the attackers. Both videos went viral in Angola.

They evoked very strong emotional reactions, particularly the second one. Within a matter of days, they had been mentioned on state television and talked about in public and private newspapers. It marks the first time that videos have gone truly viral in a country in which only about 5% of the population has access to the internet.

The videos come at a sensitive time. People continue to be shocked at the level violence permeating Angolan society. The torture and murder of a popular and well-liked teen last year at the hands of his teenage friends — which prompted a march against violence along Luanda’s new Marginal — is still fresh in many people’s minds. But the most remarkable outcome of this mass sharing of media was that the Angolan attorney general, or Procuradoria Geral da República (PGR) as it is locally known, actually did something about it. And they did it publicly and swiftly.

Read the rest here or the original post here

Our very own centraleiro Claudio Silva wrote an article for Africa is a Country about the role of social media in Angola and how it helped spread two viral videos that showed abuses against Angolan citizens. The article was later picked up the The GuardianBut as with most things in Angola, everything is not what it seems. Read on:

For the past two weeks, Angolans who use Facebook and other social media sites viewed and shared two particularly gruesome videos. One showed prison officials severely beating incarcerated men in the Comarca de Viana (Viana Jail), while the other, even more heinous, showed several men brutally beating and abusing two women who had allegedly attempted to steal a bottle of Moët & Chandon from the shop the men owned. The latter video lasts 13 long, uncomfortable minutes and among its more difficult scenes is the one in which an attacker forcibly kisses one of the women while the others laugh, and another in which the shop-owner beats the women with the blade of a machete. The video shows several men participating in the beating, while others, including women, stand by and watch while egging on the attackers. Both videos went viral in Angola.

They evoked very strong emotional reactions, particularly the second one. Within a matter of days, they had been mentioned on state television and talked about in public and private newspapers. It marks the first time that videos have gone truly viral in a country in which only about 5% of the population has access to the internet.

The videos come at a sensitive time. People continue to be shocked at the level violence permeating Angolan society. The torture and murder of a popular and well-liked teen last year at the hands of his teenage friends — which prompted a march against violence along Luanda’s new Marginal — is still fresh in many people’s minds. But the most remarkable outcome of this mass sharing of media was that the Angolan attorney general, or Procuradoria Geral da República (PGR) as it is locally known, actually did something about it. And they did it publicly and swiftly.

Read the rest of the article here or here.

“Tudo É Deles!”

Posted: December 11, 2012 in Central in English, Corrupção, Humor

Much has been written and much has been said about corruption in Angola. Spend one day in Luanda and you will see for yourself how obviously rich some of us Angolans are. One day in Lisbon and Cascais and you will see the same. The wealth of the richest Angolans has never been officially quantified, but rest assured that people such as Isabel dos Santos, Manuel Vicente, Kopelipa, Dino do Nascimento (General Dino), and others – those names that keep  popping up whenever Angolan wealth, companies or corruption cases in Portugal are mentioned, have very wealthy portfolios. But how does this actually translate to the average Angolan’s life on the ground? How is corruption felt? How does the average Angolan consumer, or even foreign nationals living in or visiting Angola, line the pockets of the country’s “elite”? Let’s look at just how prevalent is the ruling elite’s financial influence in your day-to-day activities in Luanda. Let’s pretend you’re an expat/business traveler – this is from your perspective.

Say you’ve just landed in Luanda, made your way through our state-of-the-art airport (just kidding about the airport), waited an hour or so for your luggage and paid your driver to safely navigate your way through Luanda’s beautiful, fast-flowing streets (just kidding about the streets). Destination: your hotel. If your hotel is the HCTA in Talatona, Manuel Vicente will gladly say thank you, as him and a few of his friends illegally hold financial interests there. If not, well then, welcome to Luanda.

Meanwhile, you need to get a phone. Ideally even two phones. There are only two phone operators in Angola – UNITEL and MOVICEL. Either one you choose, you’ll be lining the pockets of our favorite corrupt Angolans. Movicel, which used to be a State company, was bought by a consortium of private companies with no known commercial activities. Their shareholders are either directly  employed by the Presidency or have direct links to it. The three most prominent shareholders are Manuel Vicente, Kopelipa and General Dino.

Nevermind, you say. You want to use Unitel instead – their adverts are funnier. Well, you’re in luck: you’re now lining the pockets of Isabel dos Santos, one of the main shareholders of Unitel, and the company GENI, owned by prominent MPLA stalwarts. You pay for your phone with your new Banco BIC Multicaixa card, and suddenly remember who one of the main shareholders at Banco BIC is: The lovely Isabel dos Santos.

All this shareholding talk is making you hungry. You’ve heard a lot about some great restaurants in the city. One of them is Oon.Dah, regarded by many as the best in Luanda. You decide to check it out and have your meal there. Congratulations – you’ve just lined the pockets of Isabel dos Santos, Oon.dah’s owner. For dinner, you decide you want a change from the delicious Asian fusion cuisine at Oon.Dah and are in the mood for some fine Brazilian steak – a rodízio, perhaps. So you call your business mates (on your Movicel/Unitel phone– Manuel Vicente, Isabel, and their friends say “cha-ching!”) and make your way to Esplanada Grill on the Ilha. Owned by…Isabel dos Santos!

You’re getting a bit tired of the traffic and don’t want to go back to the “city” just yet. “Let’s stay at the Ilha!”, you say. “Where can one hear live music?” It being a Thursday, your Angolan business mates will tell you about a great spot on the Ilha called Miami Beach. Nice breeze, great caipirinhas, and live music. When you leave there, having paid your bill, you’ll have added some more of your Kwanzas to Isabel dos Santos’ bottom line – it’s her restaurant.

“To hell with this,” you exclaim. “If I cook my own meal I bet I can have lunch without lining the pockets of the Angolan elite”, you reason, remembering that one of your friends was lucky enough to get an apartment in Kilamba. You call your Angolan mates (on your Unitel/Movicel) and ask them about a good place to do groceries near you. “Kero Supermarket”, they say. And there’s one in Kilamba! Happily having completed your purchases for your first home-cooked meal in Angola, you head over to your friend’s apartment, where you ask, “By the way, who owns Kero? It’s great in there!” “Well,”, he responds “Manuel Vicente, Kopelipa and General Dino are ultimately the main shareholders! They also own Delta Imobiliária, the only company allowed to sell Kilamba apartments and the one that got me mine!” You continue your meal in silence, stunned.

A few hours after dinner you’re watching some program about kuduro on state channel TPA 2, owned and managed by two of the President’s kids. There are two state-owned channels – TPA1 and 2; the only private Angolan channel is TV Zimbo, which you are not too surprised to know is owned by a group called Media Nova in which Kopelipa, Manuel Vicente and General Dino have significant interests. By now you’ve stopped caring. Your Unitel/Movicel phone is ringing and your Angolan friends want to take you to a night out on the town, to precisely the hottest club in Luanda. Destination: Kasta Lounge. Owner: Coreon Dú, the President’s son.

You end your day in bed, thinking “how is this even possible.” Your head is pounding. As is customary, you like to doze off to the sound of the television, and thankfully your hotel room is equipped with ZAP Cable. You land on some boring documentary that is perfect to fall asleep to.

It’s only then that you remember: Isabel dos Santos is a major shareholder at ZON Multimedia, parent company of ZAP.

Welcome to Angola.

*The title comes from a famous MCK lyric on the song ‘O País do Pai Banana':

Também quero a paz no prato, dignidade e paz no prato./  Prefiro morrer a tiro do que morrer a fome, irmãos./ A disparidade é enorme, vivemos presos nesta armadilha, condenados a sermos escravos de três famílias./ Tudo é deles, do Talatona à Ilha, os diamantes são deles, o petróleo é deles, a imobilária é deles/ (…) para nós só temos o Zango e o Panguila./ O patrão é o colono, na terra do pai banana”.

In English:

“I also want peace on my plate, dignity and peace on my plate./ They rather shoot me than starve me, brothers./ The disparity is enormous, we are caught in this trap condemned to be slaves of three families./ Everything is theirs, from Talatona to the Ilha, the diamonds are theirs, the oil is theirs, the real estate is theirs/ (…) we only have Zango and Panguila./ The boss is the colonizer, in the Banana Republic”.

Jose Eduardo dos Santos

5 Reasons why Dos Santos will Continue to Exert Control over Angola Even After he Leaves

Over the course of the past 33 years, Angolan president José Eduardo dos Santos has been able to consolidate his hold on power within the MPLA, to the point where the party has become a hostage of his whims, his will, and his calculated manipulations. Perhaps the greatest example of this was the way dos Santos was able to insert Sonangol’s ex-CEO Manuel Vicente into the number 2 position within the MPLA hierarchy during the country’s latest polls, thus empowering Vicente as Angola’s vice president. Dos Santos went ahead with his plan even faced with vigorous opposition from the party’s senior members. He simply ignored them and imposed his will, going so far as to create a new, custom-made ministerial post for Manuel Vicente as a stepping stone to his imminent vice-presidency. The post was swiftly extinguished after the August elections.

Long term Angola observers will note, however, that dos Santos isn’t simply interested in power for power’s sake. Dos Santos has also presided over the enrichment of one of the most corrupt governments not just in Africa but the world, a government in which the president’s most loyal stalwarts have become fabulously wealthy  in an increasing rate since as far back as the early 1980’s; a government whose military generals directly profited from the country’s armed conflict; a government who has been repeatedly accused of siphoning off billions of dollars from the State coffers while the rest of the country stagnates with social development indicators well below its economic reality, completely at odds with the status as a major oil exporter.

Business executives looking for opportunity in Angola, as well as Angola’s own business community, have noted that the country possesses an extensive and pervasive patronage system that benefits a small and well-connected elite. At the center of this elite are the President and his family. Such an inherently unfair and unjust business climate has several important ramifications in a developing country: it stifles economic competition, exacerbates the gulf between the haves and the have-nots, inhibits social mobility, continues to enrich those who already benefit from a very cozy relationship with the opaque state apparatus, and, most importantly, enables the government’s policy of corruption through enrichment. In a society like Angola’s, there is nothing like a hundred thousand dollars in cash and a car or two to silence discontent and buy consciences.

Dos Santos and his friends are aware of this and have made sure to integrate themselves into the very fabric of Angola’s economy, with stakes in areas that range from oil to media to cement to wholesale distribution of food. Thus, even when Dos Santos finally leaves power, he will continue to exert considerable influence, if not outright control, in key areas of Angola’s economy and society. Below are 5 reasons why:

1) His children control key aspects of Angolan media

Semba Comunicações is responsible for virtually all of the content on TPA2, one of two state television channels. Both are unashamedly and at times fanatically pro-government. TPA2 is also notorious for its less than desirable programming. The country’s only “private” television channel, TV Zimbo, is owned by a holding company headed by dos Santos ally General Kopelipa and…Manuel Vicente, Vice President. This same holding also owns the weekly newspaper O País, which enjoys strong circulation numbers in the capital.

2) His daughter Isabel has a stake in most important sectors of the Angolan and Portuguese economy

Substantial interests in the banking, media, telecommunications, diamonds, oil, energy, hospitality, retail, and finance sectors make Isabel the strongest player in the Angolan economy and an increasingly important and influential investor in the Portuguese economy. In effect, dos Santos can now expand his influence not just in Angola but also in the European Union, by way of Portugal. It will be interesting to see the policial and economic ramifications of Isabel’s involvement in these economies in the years to come.

3) His son Zenu is a board member of Angola’s $5 billion sovereign wealth fund

Angola’s brand new sovereign wealth fund has José Filomeno dos Santos as one of its board members. Despite the assurances of Zenu, as he is commonly known, that he will uphold the rule of law and is clearly aware that he is now a “public servant”, the move is another clear case of nepotism in Angola’s economic affairs and another indication that dos Santos really does not care much for the Angolan people’s position on the matter, nor for the concept of “conflict of interests.” Angolans are counting on the sovereign wealth fund to invest in the country’s infrastructure, among other sectors, but its first investment was a luxurious office complex in London’s Savile Row.

4) His trusted associate Manuel Vicente, with whom Dos Santos shares key business interests, will most likely succeed him as president

Dos Santos, some of his children, and Vicente share many business interests and it is no surprise that he picked the latter to possibly succeed him as president. To Angola watchers who are aware of the country’s intricate business and economic reality (and who read Maka Angola), this could not have been much of a surprise: Manuel Vicente seemed like the perfect choice. For all his perceived managerial acumen, he ensured that Sonangol continued its opaque handling of Angola’s fabulous oil wealth with little financial transparency, is himself involved in an international corruption case involving Cobalt Energy and Nazaki Oil & Gas, which he formed with General Kopelipa,  and demonstrated complete loyalty to dos Santos. It will ensure that politically as well as economically, Angola’s socio-economic and political reality will stay the same, and the patronage system at the base of it all will be safeguarded.

5) He continues to exert complete control over the MPLA, which in turn exerts complete control over all aspects of  society

Ask anyone in MPLA’s powerful Central Committee: what do they think of Manuel Vicente? Dos Santos brazenly handpicked the ex-Sonangol CEO to be his number two on the electoral list to the detriment of several of MPLA’s senior figures, who besides having participated in the fight for independence, also stood by him through Angola’s communist years and now the country’s capitalist reincarnation. That they felt slighted is putting it mildly. But that dos Santos was able to do as he pleased highlights just how much power he has within the MPLA. And by controlling the MPLA, he controls all aspects of Angola’s society: sharp observers of Angola’s latest election will have seen how the Party implanted itself not just in political affairs but also in religion, music, schools, sport, etc. The specter of the Party at the center of daily life remains strong in Angola, and the cult of personality surrounding President dos Santos was very much in evidence throughout the last months and weeks of campaigning.

“33 é muito”, yes, but now we need to figure out how to ensure that after dos Santos leaves, we are able to take back control of our country, as Angolans and for the benefit of all Angolans.