Unholy row erupts as Angolan president appoints daughter to head up State oil company Sonangol

An unholy row has erupted since Africa’s richest businesswoman, Isabel dos Santos, has been appointed head of Angola’s State oil company Sonangol by her father, the country’s president.

With widespread criticism inflaming social media, a group of Angolan lawyers is said to be discussing the possibility of mounting a legal challenge – while foreign news services are reporting the news as another indication that president dos Santos is trying to set up a form of monarchical succession.

David Mendes, of civic association Mãos Livres, told Público that the whole issue “raises suspicions”.

Isabel dos Santos “has many interests in the world of oil and the financial world”, he explained, and to take up her new post, those interests “would enter into collision with Sonangol”.

She would be effectively doing business with herself, he said.

But even though the likelihood of winning a legal challenge is low, Mendes said it “would be worse if we did not try”.

The lawyers are due to make a decision tomorrow (Saturday).

Meantime, the bottom line is that the likelihood of president dos Santos stepping down (as he has intimated he will be doing in 2018) looks increasingly slim.

“Anyone who was thinking of leaving power would not commit these mistakes,” Mendes added, explaining that the next president could simply annul acts that were illicit, or for the benefit of family members.

People are really starting to feel that the president is “exceeding the limits of illicit appropriation of public services”, he added – referring to other examples where family members are in charge of Angola’s refuse collection, water and electricity supplies – even Customs & Excise.

Journalist and activist Raquel Marques was much more peremptory.

“The president has lost all conscience,” she told Público. “He may as well nominate the family’s cat to be the Minister of the Environment.”

Officially, the reason for daughter Isabel’s new position is “the interests of transparency”.

But as the BBC points out in the second paragraph of its story today, she “takes on the job after the entire board was sacked by her father in April”.

The BBC highlights Ms dos Santos’ interests in “many of Angola’s strategic industries, including diamonds, banking, media and telecommunications, with large parts of her business empire based in Portugal”.

“She owns 7% of the Portuguese oil and gas company Galp Energia”, adds the news service, stressing that representatives for Ms Dos Santos have denied that her wealth is largely due to her father’s position as president, or that it has been acquired using state money and public funds.

Angolan analyst Aslak Orre has told BBC’s Newsday programme that being head of Sonangol is “next to the presidency… the most powerful position in the country”.

The way Eduardo dos Santos is “channelling resources and public jobs to Isabel and his other children implies he is planning almost a monarchical succession… passing power from himself to one of his children,” he added.

[email protected]