Angola power elites showdown looms in party congress

Thursday June 13 2019

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Angola's President Joao Lourenco, after their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow on April 4, 2019. Angola's ruling MPLA will hold its seventh extraordinary congress where allies of former President Eduardo dos Santos including his daughter Welwitschia dos Santos Tchizé are expected to be sidelined from party affairs. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

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A political showdown pitting allies of Angola president João Lourenço and those of the country's former first family is expected when the ruling MPLA convenes for its seventh extraordinary congress on Saturday.

The convention comes only a week after former President José Eduardo dos Santos daughter was Friday suspended from the ruling MPLA party Central Committee (CC) after she asked President Lourenco to resign.

“The CC has approved to bring a suspension measure according to MPLA statutes on its member Comrade Welwitschia dos Santos Tchizé, ” a statement from the Party on June 7 read.

Ms Welwitschia 'Tchizé' dos Santos, daughter to former president Eduardo dos Santos, wants Mr Lourenco removed from office apparently for muzzling state institutions.

In May Ms Tchizé dos Santos said in a radio interview that President João Lourenço should be dismissed from office.

On her removal from the deliberative organ, Ms Tchize said in an audio shared on social media that some leading members were afraid of her.


“They are afraid that I go to the congress and tell some truth,” she said, enumerating politicians who have criticised President Lourenco without the party taking any action.

She is expected to be a casualty of the changes to be made in the CC membership as well as the political bureau during the congress.

President Lourenco was reported in April Tchise saying Tchize should be suspended from Parliament, where she is a member, over absenteeism.

"Who is the dictator then José Eduardo dos Santos or comrade João Lourenço,?” she posed in the audio whose authenticity has not been challenged.

Deepening the intrigues is that the public tiff has continued despite the president and Tchize suggesting they had been quoted out of context in the dismissal and suspension issue.

Although it was claimed Mr Lourenco asked Parliament to declare her seat vacant, Mr Lourenco says he only said the Speaker would decide on the matter.

Ms Tchizé also later denied calling for the president's resignation.

Ms Tchize has been out of the country since January as she attends to her sick child.

The ruling MLPA party advised her in a letter on May 7 to seek a leave of absence from Parliament which she rejected accusing the party leadership of trying to intimidate her.

“The president is conniving because he does nothing,” she said in the controversial an interview with the Portuguese news agency Lusa on May 9.

She said she was looking for lawyers to file an impeachment request at the constitutional court, adding that she was lobbying MPs to back formation of a Parliamentary Committee to inquire into the president's performance.

She said she had been threatened for challenging some of Mr Lourenco's policies including the decision to bar a number of officials linked to her father's administration from leaving Angola.

Her sister Isabel dos Santos is also living abroad splitting time between Portugal, UK and USA countries where they have business, residencies and other interests.

“President João Lourenço is persecuting me through MPLA because no one in the party makes a decision without the president permission,” Ms Welwitschia dos Santos said.

Ms Tchize said she cannot be forced to sign a suspension letter after being threatened and coerced to live outside the country.

“I am abroad involuntarily. I cannot sign voluntarily a suspension requested for where I was pushed”, she reacted on social media where she has a huge following.

The ruling People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) has governed Angola since 1975 after the country’s independence from Portugal.

President Lourenço took over following an election in September 2017 that marked the end of dos Santos's 38-year reign.

Since then Lourenço has launched a large-scale purge in the administration and public companies, that appear to target associates and relatives of dos Santos.

The ruling party MPLA spokesperson Mr Paulo Pombolo said Tchize had crossed the line to warrant disciplinary action from the the party.

“Demanding the president’s destitution, accusing the president of dictatorship and of making coup to state institutions is absurd and serious. Does she have any evidence?," Mr Pombolo said.
He added she was wrong to make internal party matters public while she was a member of the party's Central Committee, the organ that deliberates such matters.

"She has higher responsibilities compared to base militants. “Comrade Tchizé dos Santos as a CC member knows that there are rules to obey and she is misbehaving”, Mr Pombolo said.

He said she had not raised concerns over insecurity and political harassment. "She has to write to the speaker to suspend her term, ”Mr Pombolo concluded.
Unita, the country’s main opposition party says the MP pronouncements are indicators of the ruling MPLA decadence.
“There is a clear crisis inside MPLA, between former president José Eduardo dos Santos allies and current president João Lourenço allies” Unita MP Nelito Ekuikui said on VOA Radio.
The ruling party, however, views the exchanges as a sign of healthy internal democracy.
“It has to do with an opinion misinterpreted and we cannot feed a conflict environment with the pronouncements,” Mr João Pinto, a ruling party MP, said.
Mr Leonel Gomes, an MP of Casa-Ce, the country’s third political force, said the feuding parties needed some moderation.

“With moderation and prudence the pronouncements can contribute to the harmony inside the party and the country.” Mr Gomes said.