REPORTS this week that Angolan police arrested former president Jose Eduardo dos Santos’ son, José Filomeno, over the alleged illegal transfer of US$500 million from state coffers to a Swiss bank account brought to the fore what President Emmerson Mnangagwa needs to avoid and should also be doing.
José Filomeno’s detention marked the latest step by President João Lourenço to tackle corruption and dismantle patronage networks, as well as diminish the influence of his predecessor whose four-decade rule left Angola one of the world’s most corrupt nations.
Since coming to power in September last year, Lourenço has dismissed Dos Santos’ daughter Isabel—Africa’s richest woman—as chairperson of state oil producer Sonangol and fired Jose Filomeno as head of the country’s US$5 billion sovereign wealth fund.
José Filomeno, accused of crimes related to management of the fund including money laundering, has been placed under preventive detention. His friend and business partner, Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais, also was arrested on similar charges.
De Morais is a Swiss-Angolan tycoon who founded and led several businesses over the course of his career, among them Quantum Global, an international investment group with a particular focus on Africa, and Banco Kwanza Invest, Angola’s first investment bank.
Until recently, Zimbabwe’s new Finance minister Mthuli Ncube was Quantum’s managing director. De Morais and José Filomeno were placed in detention on suspicion of embezzling national funds over the alleged illegal transfer of US$500 million from state coffers to an HSBC Holdings Plc account in the UK.
The new Angolan government has made fighting corruption and economic reform its much-vaunted mantra. This is buying it goodwill among international investors and boosting its popularity at home, a new report by a global risk consultancy group said this week.
However, the country’s political economy remains firmly controlled by the same political-business-military elite which dominated Angola for generations. A new report by political and security risk consultancy A2 Global Risk says in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Joseph Kabila and his cronies also treated the country like an heirloom.
The DRC has been colonised, raped and looted by plunderers such as King Leopold II who claimed and exploited the country as a private venture, and Mobutu Sese Seko.
Mnangagwa must stop the cronyism and dismantle the patronage networks.While he has made all the right noises during his nine months in power, he must now match his lofty anti-corruption rhetoric with concrete, decisive action.
It remains to be seen is whether Mnangagwa can now move beyond noisy rhetoric and — like Angola’s Laurenço and Tanzania’s John Magufuli — bite the bullet by slaying the multi-headed monster of corruption, cronyism, patronage and primitive accumulation. He has his work cut out for him.