Tag Archives: Angola

Southern Africa – the curse of struggle politics and the liberation movement divine right to power

The Conversation

How liberators turn into oppressors: a study of southern African states

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace. Mugabe has been in power since 1980. Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo

This article is a foundation essay. These are longer than usual and take a wider look at a key issue affecting society.

Since coming to political power, the anticolonial movements of Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa have remained in control of the former settler colonies’ societies.

At best their track record of running the countries they helped liberate is mixed. From the “oiligarchy” in Angola under José Eduardo dos Santos and his family clan and the autocratic “Zanufication” under Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to the presidential successions in Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa, all movements embarked on what could be termed “state capture”.

This is true of all five: the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo), the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU PF), Namibia’s South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO) and the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa.

During the years of organised resistance, activists in the liberation movements often internalised a “we-they” divide that categorised people as comrades or enemies. This was true in exile politics and armed struggle, as well as militant internal underground mobilisation.

The repressive regimes the liberation movements opposed were based on human rights violations as an integral component of minority rule. To have a chance of success against them, the struggle mainly operated along the lines of command and obedience. Operating in exile or for a banned organisation at home left no room for complacency. Suspicion was required for survival. It is normal for resistance movements to adopt rough survival strategies and techniques while fighting an oppressive regime.

Unfortunately that culture takes root and is permanently nurtured. Such confrontational mentality has become entrenched in an authoritarian political culture that is based on the claim that liberators have an entitlement to rule within a new elite project. This has happened much to the frustration of those who believed that the struggle against settler colonialism was also a struggle against a range of other things. These include economic exploitation, redistribution of wealth, plural democracy and respect for human dignity, rights and civil liberties.

This happened in societies in transition almost everywhere. Those who sacrificed during the resistance felt in many cases entitled to new privileges as a kind of compensation and reward. As a new elite, they also often mimicked the lifestyles of those they replaced. Mugabe’s cultivation of Oxford English is as much a case in point as the new Indian elite culture analysed by Ashis Nandy in “The Intimate Enemy”.

There is also nothing new about militant movements that are supposedly justified in ethical and moral terms losing their legitimacy quickly when obtaining power. Since the French Revolution, liberators have often turned into oppressors, victims into perpetrators. New regimes often resemble features of the old one.

Wounds old and new

Armed resistance was in different degrees part of the liberation struggles in the southern African settler colonies. While liberation did not come from the barrel of a gun, the military component accelerated the process towards self-determination. In the cases of Zimbabwe, Namibia and, to a lesser extent, South Africa, it was a contributing factor for a negotiated transition towards majority rule.

The compromises required from all sides were part of a wider appeasement strategy tantamount to elite pacts. Negotiated transfer of political power did not abandon the settler colonial structures of society.

It bears repetition that the unscrupulously violent character of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) regime had already revealed itself in the early to mid-1980s. Already during the exile years internal power struggles led to assassinations and showed the brute force inherent in liberation struggles, even within their own ranks. This willingness to resort to violence was seen on a massive scale after independence as it was turned against political opponents and their support base.

A special unit killed an estimated 20,000 people through Operation Gukurahundi, where the opposition Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) had most support. Atrocities bordering on genocide did not stop until ZAPU agreed to sign a pact. ZANU basically took ZAPU over.

When the Movement for Democratic Change as a new opposition party turned into a serious competitor, the Chimurenga, or revolutionary struggle, became a permanent institution. Violence was the customary response to political protest. And as political power shifted away from Mugabe after the lost referendum in 2000, his regime became more violent.

Swapo’s human rights violations have also been downplayed. In the 1980s the organisation imprisoned thousands of its members in dungeons in southern Angola, accusing them of spying on behalf of South Africa. These people lost their liberty and often their lives in spite of never having been proven guilty. Indeed, they were not even brought to trial. Most did not survive the torture. Those released are scorned even today.

While political leaders of these movements might not have practised such acts of violence themselves, they were accomplices and knew of them.

South Africa’s trajectory is sobering too. Given the country’s vibrant political culture pre-democracy, the prospects for democracy were more encouraging.

But the horrific degree of violence displayed by those executing “law and order” on behalf of the South African state in Marikana was a reminder that Sharpeville was not past.

The 2012 Marikana massacre brought bitter memories of the apartheid-era killings of protesters in Sharpeville. Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko

As early as 1990, veteran underground activist and later constitutional judge Albie Sachs expressed doubts that ANC activists were ready for freedom. He worried about the habits they had cultivated. While the culture and discipline of resistance may have served as a survival strategy in the underground, these skills were not those of free citizens.

Raymond Suttner’s work, based on his view from the inside, points out that ANC ideology and rhetoric do not distinguish between the liberation movement and the people. The liberation movement is a prototype of a state within the state – one that sees itself as the only legitimate source of power.

He also explains how during the struggle there was a general suppression of “the personal” in favour of “the collective”. Individual judgment, and thereby autonomy, was substituted by a collective decision from the leadership. Such a “warrior culture” included heroic acts, but also the abuse of power.

As in many instances, women – as mothers, wives and daughters, but also as objects for satisfying sexual desires – paid the highest price and made the greatest sacrifices.

South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, institutionalised by the government, also talked about human rights violations committed by the ANC. Although the final official report containing these findings was never published in its original form, President Nelson Mandela did not shy away from earlier offering a public apology to the victims of the ANC’s failures to respect basic human rights.

Beyond the ‘end of history’

As we now know, postcolonial life looks for far too many people very much like that of the colonial era in respect to day-to-day living. One reason for this is that socialisation and attitudes from the struggle have shaped the new political leaders’ understanding of politics – and their idea of how to wield power.

In office, liberation movements tend to mark “the end of history”. Their party machineries – as sociologist Roger Southall describes it – promote the equation that the party is the government and the government is the state. Any political alternative that does not emerge from within will not be acceptable.

This attitude explains the strong sense of camaraderie between the Mugabe regime and the governments of Angola, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa. Typically, any political alternative will be discredited as being part of an imperialist conspiracy that is designed to sabotage national independence and is seeking “regime change”.

The relevant categories of thought are winners and losers. But democracy is about something completely different: compromise, and even a search for consensus, in pursuit of the public good. To achieve that, one does not need mindsets in combat mode, but rather a broad political debate.

Looking at the history of the liberation struggles in southern Africa can, therefore, also open our eyes and sharpen our sensibility, awareness and understanding of forms of rule that show clear limitations for genuine emancipation and liberation.

We should also critically reflect on those – within the countries and globally – who rendered those movements support. How have they positioned themselves vis-à-vis the new power structures? How are they practising the notion of solidarity in the context of inequalities and injustices?

We should return to the mindsets, values, norms and expectations of those who supported these struggles. The notion of solidarity might then live on with a similar uncompromising meaning and practice.

A luta continua [The struggle continues]” as a popular slogan during the struggle days would then not translate into “the looting continues” but return to its true meaning. If implemented accordingly, it underlines that there is no end of history when it comes to social struggles for true emancipation, equality, liberty and justice.

Angola – election to be held on 23 August as Dos Santos era draws near to its end

Africa Spotlight/AFP

Luanda – Angola’s cabinet said on Monday that elections will be held on August 23 to choose a successor to President Eduardo dos Santos after 38 years of iron-fisted rule.

Dos Santos, 74, has been in power since 1979 and has announced that he will not contest the election. His ruling party’s presidential candidate will be the current defence minister.

“At the suggestion of the president of the republic… the nation’s cabinet on Monday approved August 23 as the date for Angola’s general election,” cabinet spokesman Joao Maria de Sousa said in a press conference broadcast on national radio.

Dos Santos must now formally trigger the legal process to stage the polls which will see up to 9.6 million Angolans cast ballots.

Joao Lourenco, the current defence minister, emerged in February as Dos Santos’ chosen successor and is thought by analysts to be the most likely victor in August’s contest.

The election is set to mark a new chapter for the oil-rich country as Dos Santos hands over power.

Dos Santos, who has dominated the Angolan government and the ruling MPLA party for decades, has been regularly accused of crushing dissent.

The MPLA has ruled since independence from Portugal in 1975.

About 50 protesters attended an unauthorised demonstration in Luanda on Monday calling for fair elections, with police arresting seven people who were each jailed for 45 days.

After constitutional changes in 2010, Angola does not directly elect a president but the leader of the winning party in the general elections automatically becomes head of state.

“All the political, parliamentary, financial, logistical and security conditions are in place for transparent and unhindered general elections,” said Sousa, who also serves as the country’s chief prosecutor, apparently quoting Dos Santos.

But opposition figures have raised doubts about the plans for the polls and suggested it is unlikely that they will be fair.


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Angola – Portugal laying corruption charges against V-P Vicente


Angola Vice President Manuel Vicente -AFP

Manuel Vicente was tipped by some to be Angola’s next president

Portuguese state prosecutors are bringing corruption charges against Angola’s vice-president Manuel Vicente.

The attorney-general’s office says that Mr Vicente paid $810,000 (£650,000) in bribes to shut down corruption investigations that he was facing.

The alleged bribes were made to Portugal’s former public prosecutor Orlando Figueira, who also faces charges as part of “Operation Fizz”.

Mr Vicente’s lawyer has denied the allegations, Portuguese media report.

More on this and other African stories

Elite hoard Angola’s new-found wealth

Mr Vicente served as head of Angola’s state oil company Sonangol from 1999 until 2012, a hugely influential position now occupied by the president’s daughter Isabel Dos Santos.

Until news of the corruption scandal emerged last year, he had been strongly tipped as a potential successor to President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who has ruled Angola since 1979.

The original corruption investigation, halted in 2012, focused on the origin of money Mr Vicente used to buy a luxury apartment in Lisbon, local media reported.
Isabel dos Santos now occupies the post long held by Mr Vicente

The vice-president’s lawyer, Rui Patricio, said his client had not been notified of any charges being brought against him, describing the move as a “procedural violation” which “invalidated the legal process”, local media report.

Portuguese prosecutors say they intend to notify the vice-president of the charges via the Angolan authorities.

Angola has branded previous attempts by Portugal to investigate Mr Vicente as “revenge by the former colonial master” and “neo-colonialism”.

Angola’s political and financial elite have in recent years invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Portugal, Angola’s former colonial ruler.

The investments have largely gone into buying up property and Portuguese companies.

Angola and Nigeria are Africa’s biggest oil producers.

Despite its oil wealth most people in Angola survive on less than $2 a day and child mortality rates are among the highest in the world

Critics accuse President Jose Eduardo dos Santos of being increasingly authoritarian.

Angola – MPLA picks leaders ready for 2017 elections


Angola’s ruling People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) elected new party leaders on Tuesday, including a former army general seen as a front-runner to succeed long-time president José Eduardo dos Santos.

MPLA’s Central Committee elected João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, a retired general and defence minister, as vice president ahead of 2017 parliamentary elections where the leader of the winning party becomes president.

Dos Santos, president of oil-producing southern African nation since 1979, was re-elected party leader over the weekend by an overwhelming majority. But in March he indicated he would be step down by 2018, although he failed to name a successor.

Dos Santos’ billionaire daughter, Isabel, is seen as another potential successor after her appointment by presidential decree to chief executive of state oil firm Sonangol, the main source of government revenues.

The appointment in June was seen by some analysts as dos Santos laying the ground for dynastic, family succession if the president follows through on his indication to step down in 2018.

The party also elected former prime minister António Paulo Kassoma as secretary general of the organisation.

Angola, a member of OPEC and Africa’s second largest oil exporter after Nigeria, has been battered by the slump in global crude prices that has dried-up revenues and provoked opposition to dos Santos’ 36-year rule.

(Reporting by Herculano Coroado; Writing by Mfuneko Toyana)

Angola – FLEC says it has killed 17 soldiers in Cabinda attacks


Two rebels and 17 Angolan soldiers were killed in two incidents in the oil-producing province of Cabinda at the weekend, the separatist Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC) said on Monday.

Authorities in the southern African, currently Africa’s biggest oil producer, declined to comment. On Friday the government also did not respond to a FLEC claim that nine Angolan soldiers had been killed in the region.

Luanda rarely responds to such claims in a region where separatists have been waging a low-intensity guerrilla campaign for several decades.

The latest clashes broke out on Saturday and Sunday near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, FLEC said in a statement.

FLEC, which wants independence for a territory that accounts for half of Angola’s oil output, has been more vocal since the death this year of its 88-year-old founder, Nzita Tiago, in exile in France.

Men claiming to be rebels boarded an offshore Chevron gas platform in late May and threatened foreign petroleum workers in a rare sign of the simmering instability in heavily guarded Cabinda.

The incident cast doubt on Luanda’s assertion that FLEC has fizzled out since a 2007 peace deal. Analysts say the group does not have the ability to affect oil output in Angola, nearly all of which is offshore.

(Reporting by Herculano Coroado; Writing by TJ Strydom; Editing by Ed Cropley)

Angola – Isabel dos Santos’s fake fortune is Sonangol money

Maka Angola

Rafael Marques de Morais, May 30, 2016



Isabel dos Santos and her husband Sindika Dokolo at the recent Cannes Festival (Photo: D. Bennet).

When Isabel dos Santos sits down to count her billions, as Africa’s richest woman, much of that fortune is in stocks and shares which she counts as her own. Forbes estimates her wealth at US $3.3 billion. The reality, however, is that a large proportion (almost two thirds of her fortune) estimated at 1.6 billion Euros (US $1.8 billion) according to the Diário Economico’s calculations, corresponds to stocks in the Portuguese oil and gas company, Galp, which legally belong to the Angolan National Oil Company, Sonangol.President José Eduardo dos Santos’s daughter told the Wall Street Journal last February: “I’m not financed by any state money or any public funds.” She insisted “I don’t do that.” Ever since the announcement that she had become a billionaire, Isabel has done her utmost to justify her fortune as “clean”, the result of entrepreneurial expertise which began with her selling eggs at the tender age of six.Galp is Portugal’s largest company in the oil and gas sector with share capital worth 9.5 billion euros.

Maka Angola has conduced an investigation which unmasks Isabel dos Santos and proves that – contrary to her assertions – her Galp shares were obtained via Sonangol in a business deal paid for by State money and public funds. The FactsIsabel’s Galp interests are held indirectly, through the offshore Esperaza Holding BV which owns 45% of Amorim Energia, the largest shareholder in Galp with 38.4% of its stock. Amorim Energia’s majority owner (with 55%) is Portugal’s richest man, Américo Amorim, who was Isabel’s partner in creating the BIC bank in 2005. The two are also partners in the company Nova Cimangola, acquired from Cimpor by the Angolan State for US $75 million. It is through Esperaza Holding that Sonangol’s funds were channelled to Isabel dos Santos.In 2005, when Esperaza Holding bought into Galp, it was registered by the Dutch Chamber of Commerce (Handelsregisterhistorie) as being a company wholly-owned by Sonangol and this was again the case the following year.However, documents obtained by Maka Angola show that on January 25, 2006, Sonangol signed a contract with an offshore company named Exem Africa Limited, registered in the British Virgin Islands, to create Esperaza Holding as a vehicle for investment. The contract – in English – specifies that Sonangol is the sole source of funds that wil be invested in Galp in the name of both parties. This is the ‘smoking gun’ – an undeniable paper trail that shows Angolan public money was put into Esperaza and in turn into its holding in Galp.

With the formalities for the creation of Exem Africa Limited complete, Sonangol transferred 40% of its stake in Galp to Exem. According to a document obtained by Maka Angola, Isabel dos Santos formally reported to the Portuguese Competition Authority [Autoridade da Concorrência] that she is the beneficial owner of the Exem’s shares in Esperaza. In short, Angola’s state oil giant was using a front company in which Isabel dos Santos is the ultimate beneficial owner to channel public money into overseas investments, and without Exem having to put up a single cent, by a stroke of the pen the company found itself the owner of 40% of Sonangol’s investment in Galp.Information in the public domain was that Esperaza Holding (the vehicle for controlling Galp shares) was 45% owned by the President’s daughter and 55% owned by Sonangol. However the formal agreement shows that she received 40% of the stakes, and not 45% as she misleads the public to believe. The deal was signed by Manuel Vicente, then Chairman of the Board and CEO of Sonangol (now Angola’s Vice-President) and on Isabel’s behalf by her legal counsel, Fidel Kiluanje Assis Araújo.The memorandum of understanding between the two parties divided Sonangol’s Galp share acquisition in two phases: in Phase One, Exem would pay Sonangol 11.2 million Euros (US $12.5), equivalent to 15% of the value set at the time for the execution of the transfer of the shares. In Phase Two, Exem would pay Sonangol a further 63.8 million Euros (US $71.5 million) to cover the remaining 85% of the cost of their 40% split of the parcel of Galp shares.It was a sweet deal because Isabel didn’t have to pluck a single penny out of her own purse. The money would come out of the Galp dividends paid to Esperaza Holding along with non-convertible units at the Euribor 3-month interest rate.That same year, 2006, Isabel dos Santos’s husband Sindika Dokolo became a director on the Galp Board on behalf of Esperaza Holding. Isabel dos Santos formally admitted to the Portuguese Competition Authority that she is the minority shareholder in Esperaza Holding through Exem Africa.


This is how the scheme worked. Sonangol paid for 45% of the shares in Amorim Energia which in turn held 38.4% of the shares in Galp. Sonangol then ‘donated’ a proportion of that to front companies that lead to Isabel dos Santos, requiring her only to pay up once she had pocketed sufficient dividends from the investment.So far as Maka Angola has been able to establish, there is no evidence whatsoever that Isabel (or her front companies) ever paid Sonangol the agreed sums. No official record seems to exist to show even that first payment (11.2 million Euros) changing hands.In fact, even if she were to pay up in full, the total bill for the share transfer (75 million Euros to obtain 40% of Esperaza) was actually less than the true cost of Sonangol’s investment. How else then can this transaction be described except as an illict transfer of State assets to the President’s daughter?Isabel dos Santos didn’t have to spend a single penny of her own money on this fine piece of business. All the money owed to Sonangol for the share split would come from the profits: Galp pays dividends to Esperaza and Esperaza is then supposed to divide it up and remit to Sonangol its share (60%). But Sonangol’s balance sheets and accounts show no payments from Isabel dos Santos’s holdings towards these debts.

To date, all that has happened is that Sonangol made the purchase and Isabel received the pay-out. And yet she portrays herself “in ringing declarations” as “tremendously independent.” “I always had this wish to stand alone and not be in my parents’ shadow,” she told the Wall Street Journal earlier this year.In truth, thanks to her father’s 37-year Presidency, Isabel has used Angola’s state oil company as her private investment banker doling out an ‘inheritance’ worth hundreds of millions of US dollars to propel her into billionaire status, at the expense of the long-suffering and impoverished Angolan people who should be the true beneficiaries of Angola’s oil wealth.So it should come as no surprise to anyone that the person entrusted by the President with the restructuring of Sonangol (through her position as Chair of the Commission for the Reorganization of the Oil Sector) is none other than Isabel dos Santos. This brainchild – the creation of the Boston Consulting Group and the Portuguese firm of lawyers Vieira de Almeira e Associados – is nothing more than the latest scheme by which the President’s family milks Sonangol for its own ends.


An estimated two-thirds of Isabel’s fortune is based on her Galp shareholding, which, with no evidence to show that she has ever repaid Sonangol for its initial investment, should properly belong to the Angolan state oil company.Maka Angola’s legal analyst, Rui Verde, says this: “Isabel dos Santos’s shares in Galp should have an ownership reserve clause or a lien on these assets in favour of Sonangol until such time as the money owed is paid up in full. Even then it is not a legal act for a state firm to function as a private investment bank for the presidential family.”“From a strictly legal point of view, the handover of shares to front companies acting for Isabel, should be ruled null and void with the shares immediately reverting to Sonangol ownership.”In this lawyer’s professional opinion, there is a strong case for a criminal investigation by both Portugal and Angola into this matter, because of the “indications of corruption, embezzlement, evasion and money-laundering”.“Evidence that the shareholding obtained by Isabel dos Santos came about through the unsanctioned use of state funds by underhand means, is sufficient grounds to suggest a contravention of the international laws against money-laundering, and that is a public crime requiring obligatory investigation by the Office of the Attorney General.”Independent observers say that the use of Sonangol’s funds as a launchpad for his daughter’s business interests is just one example of the myriad ways in which the President and his family are systematically robbing the Angolan public purse for their own ends in broad daylight and in full public view. It’s incomprehensible to outsiders why the Angolan public has remained so submissive in light of the rapacious greed of the robber baron family that rules over them.

Angola – Dos Santos said to be intending to step down in 2018


Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who has been in power since 1979 and is one of Africa’s longest-ruling leaders, said on Friday he intended to step down in 2018 but gave no reason for his decision and did not name a preferred successor.

Angola, a member of OPEC and Africa’s second largest oil exporter after Nigeria, has been hit hard by the slump in global crude prices. Oil export revenues account for more than 90 percent of foreign exchange revenues.

“I took the decision to leave active political activity in 2018,” Dos Santos, 73, said in a speech to members of his ruling MPLA party’s key decision-making body. He did not elaborate.

Angola holds its next parliamentary election in 2017 and the leader of the winning party will then become president. MPLA leader Dos Santos was re-appointed to a new five-year term as Angolan president in 2012 after his party won a landslide win.

Some Luanda residents expressed surprise that Dos Santos had decided not to step down before the next election.

“The elections are in 2017, not in 2018. He should quit before the elections in 2017,” said Afonso Kangulo, 42, who is jobless and blamed the government for the weak economy.

But Frank Francisco, 48, a public service worker, said: “If he were to quit before the election, maybe people would say he ran away because he would have lost.”

Weak oil prices have hammered Africa’s third largest economy and the government is in discussions with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund about possible financial assistance.

Dos Santos’ mild, inscrutable public demeanour belies his tight control of Angola, a former Portuguese colony where he has overseen an oil-backed economic boom and the reconstruction of infrastructure devastated by a 27-year-long civil war that ended in 2002.

Critics accuse him of mismanaging Angola’s oil wealth and making an elite, mainly his family and political allies, vastly rich in a country ranked amongst the world’s most corrupt.

Dos Santos, a Soviet-educated former petroleum engineer, is Africa’s second longest ruling leader after Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.


Vice-President Manuel Vicente – former head of state oil firm Sonangol – is seen as a likely successor to Dos Santos.

“(Dos Santos) has been grooming Vicente for quite a while now … He has deputised for him on a number of important occasions, which sent a strong signal,” said Gary van Staden, a Johannesburg-based political analyst with NKC African Economics.

But another analyst said the president was grooming his son, Jose Filomeno de Sousa dos Santos, to succeed him. The younger Dos Santos currently heads Angola’s sovereign wealth fund.

“It may mean the succession is in progress and that it will be a dynastic one,” said Nelson Bonavena, an economics lecturer at the Catholic University of Angola and political analyst.

Ricardo Soares de Oliveira, an Angola expert at Britain’s Oxford University, struck a more cautious note.

“Dos Santos’ departure from power has been the talk of the town in Luanda for 15 years. He has always hinted that he wanted to leave but this is the most specific commitment he has ever made,” he said.

“The fact that he put a date to it is a powerful marker and would come back to haunt him if he were to renege on it.”

(Additional reporting by Zandi Shabalala and Ed Stoddard; Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Gareth Jones)