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Former Angolan president José Eduardo dos Santos accused of corruption by his successor

João Lourenço, President of Angola. Photo by J.Barande, École Polytechnique/Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Since João Lourenço was elected president in 2017, Angolans have wondered about his relationship with his predecessor, José Eduardo dos Santos.

JES, as he's commonly called locally, has ruled Angola from 1979 to 2017, when João Lourenço was chosen to occupy the ruling MPLA's number one position. As the MPLA won a majority of 150 seats in that year's elections, Lourenço automatically became president. In September 2018, Lourenço became the leader of the MPLA as well.

While on a visit to Portugal in November 2018, João Lourenço told in a interview with weekly newspaper Expresso that JES (he's commonly called in Angola by the acronym) that he found the country’s coffers empty when he took over.

This was only the most recent episode of a series of frictions between Lourenço and the past administration. In March 2018, Lourenço has terminated contracts between JES’ relatives and Angolan state companies, an action that some Angolans see as controversial and disrespectful of the due process.

Last year, he's fired JES’ daughter, Isabel dos Santos, from the presidency of state oil-firm Sonangol. In March 2018, the prosecutors have opened a corruption investigation against her for misappropriation of funds.

Her brother, José Filomeno dos Santos, who formerly served as the chairman at the country's sovereign wealth fund was detained in September 2018 on suspicion of money-laundering, embezzlement of public funds and fraud. He remains in jail while a trial is pending.

The sociologist and television commentator João Paulo Ganga, said that the President was brave and frontal for having made serious accusations against his predecessor. According to him, the Attorney General's Office (PGR) should investigate all allegations.

Activist Joaquim Lunda agrees:

Continuo acreditar que o país pode vir a melhorar e muito e pela forma como o PR tem estado a “levar o barco”, podemos alcançar a esperança desejada e um futuro próximo de uma boa satisfação. Ainda há muito por fazer, mas nada é impossível.

Continuo a dar o meu benefício de duvidas na governação do João Lourenço e creio que até então está a dar-se “minimamente” muito bem.

Aos traidores da pátria e os que estavam com os planos de tentativa de deixarem os cofres do Estado ainda mais vazios, que sejam responsabilizados e que a história venha registar a punição dos mesmos.

I still believe that the country can improve a lot and, by the way the President has been “steering the ship”, we can achieve the desired hope and a future of satisfaction. There is still a lot to do, but nothing is impossible.

I'd still like to give the benefit of the doubt to João Lourenço and I believe that so far he has been doing “minimally” well.

To the traitors of the country and those who would like to empty the state's coffers, may they be held accountable and that history registers their punishment.

Meanwhile, Tchizé dos Santos, daughter of José Eduardo dos Santos, posted on her social media accounts that her father has found state coffers empty since he took office after the death of Angola's first president, Agostinho Neto, back in the 1970s.

Tchizé said that despite João Lourenço's claims about having found the state coffers empty, he himself has been engaging in luxury travel, and carrying out reforms in the presidential palace:

Então…um PR que encontra os cofres vazios aluga o avião privado mais luxuoso do mundo e faz obras de dezenas de milhões de USD num palácio presidencial em bom estado e de luxo? Não era melhor reabilitar ou construir postos médicos com esse dinheiro? Ou criar melhores condições para os médicos que hoje estão em greve? O PR está a gerir as prioridades melhor que o antecessor?

So… a president who finds empty coffers rents the world's most luxurious private plane and spend tens of millions of USD in luxurious works in the presidential palace. Woudn't it be better to rehabilitate or build medical hospitals with that money? Or create better conditions for doctors who are on strike today? Is the new president managing priorities better than its predecessor?

After that, José Eduardo dos Santos has held a surprise press briefing in the capital Luanda to defend himself against his successor's allegations, and claimed that he had left the public treasury with a balance of 15 billion dollars:

I did not leave the state coffers empty. In September 2017 at the time of the changeover of presidents, I left $15bn (£11bn) in the National Reserve Bank (BNA)

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