The 'presidential' marriage causing unease in Angola

Sunday April 21 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. President's Lourenco's daughter is getting engaged to his predecessor José Eduardo dos Santos' son in a marriage clouded by a rift between the two families. PHOTO | ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO | AFP 

ARNALDO VIEIRA
By ARNALDO VIEIRA
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In many circumstances, a former president’s son marrying his successor’s daughter, would be a union made in a political heaven.

It would guarantee the former president a sympathetic ear at the top and assure the incumbent of access to old political networks; a capital that comes in handy in holding on to power.

In Angola, however, the speculation around the marriage of Angolan President João Lourenço daughter, Ms Cristina Giovanna Dias Lourenço, and former President José Eduardo dos Santos son, Mr Joess Avelino Gourgel dos Santos, is one that the influential families may not exactly be keen on.

The aspersions stem from a deep falling out between the two leaders as Mr Lourenco seeks to be his own man by breaking from the previous establishment which is tainted by corruption.

In his resolve, loyalties and family ties count for nothing. He has waged an anti-corruption war that has seen several close associates of his predecessor implicated in wrongdoing.

Mr Dos Santos, on the other hand, cannot countenance how his chosen successor can be so ungrateful and has shown his disdain at every opportunity, including refusing to fly the country’s national carrier, TAAG Angola Airlines.

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

Since then Lourenço has launched a large-scale purge in the administration and public companies, mainly targeting the relatives of his predecessor..

Media reports said last month that the couple, which has been dating for the past two years, was set to be engaged.

“The announcement was not welcomed by both family members,” the private Club K reported.

A date for the engagement was not mentioned.

The couple have known each other since they were students in UK.

Mr Joess dos Santos graduated in architecture at Oxford Brookes University while Ms Cristina graduated in Economics from the London School of Economics.

Mr dos Santos currently works in civil construction sector while his bride to be works for the country’s finance ministry.

“With former president José Eduardo dos Santos and President João Lourenço relationship not good enough the young couple was afraid to go on but later decided to formalise their relationship,” the report went on.

President Lourenco was dos Santos defence minister.

The senior dos Santos and the father of the bride-to-be would be expected to meet at the engagement ceremony where body language could betray their innermost feelings.

In his corruption purge Mr Lourenco sacked one of dos Santos siblings José Filomeno dos Santos Zenú who was the head of the country’s sovereign fund in January 2018.

He was freed from custody in March after six months.

Mr Zenú was detained in September at the São Paulo Prison in Luanda over the suspect transfer of $500 million from the Fund.

The money was allegedly transferred from the Angolan Reserve Bank to the Credit Suisse Bank in the UK.

The Attorney General said the arrest followed investigations that implicated two defendants, including Mr Zenú.

The whereabouts of two daughters of the former president - Isabel dos Santos and Tchizé dos Santos - is not clear after they left Angola over what they claimed was political harassment by Mr Lourenco’s establishment.

Mr Lourenco also sacked Isabel, the former president’s eldest daughter, as the chair of the board of the state-owned oil firm Sonangol.

On Monday the former President travelled to Spain for regular check-up but was criticised by Mr Lourenço’s office for not following protocol.

He opted to fly with a foreign airline instead of the national carrier.

The office also said he ignored arrangements made by the presidency for his stay in Spain.

A new warfront between the families unfolded on Thursday after President Lourenco cancelled a mobile phone licence awarded to a local startup, Telstar, in a $120-million deal.

Telstar was established only in January 2018 with army general Manuel Joao Carneiro and entrepreneur Antonio Cardoso Mateus among its shareholders.

Other reports said the company has links to Mundo Telecomunicaçoes, an operator owned by several former ministers or advisers to the ex-president.

The profitable mobile telecommunications sector is currently shared between two private firms, Movicel and Unitel, the country's leading operator.

Isabel, believed to be the richest woman in Africa, holds a controlling stake in Unitel while her half-sister, Welwitschia dos Santos, holds a stake in Movicel.

Lourenco swept to power in 2017 after pledging to clean up Angola's endemic graft, tackle nepotism, and revive its listless economy.

He is opening up the telecommunications sector as part of plans to boost the economy of sub-Saharan Africa's second largest oil producer struggling to recover from the impact of a sharp drop in crude prices in 2014.

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