June 20, 2016 (GIN) – Angola’s aging president has found a new and lucrative job for his daughter, Isabel dos Santos, who already holds the title of Africa’s richest woman.
President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, 73, this month tapped his daughter to head Sonangol, the national oil company. Using a presidential decree he also sacked the company’s directors, in a move some have called unconstitutional.
“With matters of natural strategic resources, the president cannot change the rules as he pleases,” said Rafael Marques, an Angolan human rights activist. “He must make a request from parliament. He didn’t do that and therefore Sonangol’s reforms are unconstitutional.”
On June 9, a group of lawyers challenged Ms. dos Santos’ appointment and presented their concerns to the Supreme Court. The main opposition party, the Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita) has also requested an inquiry into the company shake-up.
Gary van Staden, an analyst at NKC African Economic in Paarl, near Cape Town, concurred. “In this day and age, I don’t think leaders in countries like Angola should be appointing their children to head key parts of the economy and key parts of government. I think it will be perceived as very negative and I think there will be some fallout for them from this.”
Ms. dos Santos already owns a 25% stake in Angola’s first private mobile phone operator and is a major shareholder in other big companies in Angola and Portugal. Her wealth is estimated at $3 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Angola vies with Nigeria as Africa’s biggest oil producer and also produces diamonds.
The Russian-educated dos Santos, Africa’s second-longest serving president, has said he will quit “active politics” in 2018 after leading the country since 1979. His son Jose Filomeno dos Santos already runs Angola’s $5 billion sovereign wealth fund.
Despite the questionable appointment of Ms. Santos, experts from PricewaterhouseCoopers and Boston Consulting Group are said to be ready to assist in the company’s reorganization.
But they may be cautioned by the current court case against Goldman Sachs for that company’s trading advice to a Libyan fund that wound up losing its shirt while the U.S. banker made many millions in profits.
Meanwhile, Luaty Beirao, a rapper known as Ikonoklasta, was moved to a prison hospital where he is said to be on a hunger strike.
The rapper is an outspoken critic of the dos Santos’ government and has called for a fairer distribution of state’s oil wealth.