Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Angolan police under fire

Twenty-one people have appeared in court in the Angolan capital of Luanda charged with public order offences, following a rare anti-government demonstration that turned violent, leaving several ­protesters, journalists and police officers injured.

Protesters and rights groups have accused the Angolan police of brutality, and sources claim that undercover intelligence officers infiltrated the crowd and acted as agents provocateurs.

A group of mainly young people without fixed political affiliations gathered in Luanda’s Independence Square on September 3 to call for an end to the rule of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who has been in power for almost 32 years.

The protest, which had been authorised by the provincial government of Luanda, started peacefully, but organiser Pandito Nerú’s failure to appear set ­tempers flaring. He later claimed that he had been kidnapped at gunpoint and taken to a remote beach for interrogation.

Demanding Nerú’s release, some protesters left the designated protest area and made their way towards the presidential palace. They were stopped at a police roadblock where some were arrested.

At this point, witnesses say, the incident turned violent — video footage filmed on cellphones and seen by the Mail & Guardian shows chaotic scenes and people lying bloodied on the pavement.

Two people, unconscious, were taken to hospital and several journalists needed medical attention after being “deliberately targeted”.

Portuguese freelance ­journalist Antonio Cascais said he was attacked on his way back to his hotel after the demonstration. In an interview with Human Rights Watch he said: “They violently grabbed my throat and threw me to the ground, insulting me and saying that I was ‘instigating confusion’.

“They stepped on my face to immobilise me immediately and searched my pockets. They took my camera and phones, but didn’t touch the $300 I had on me. Their aim seemed to be neither to beat or rob me but to quickly get hold of the pictures from the demonstration.”

A protester, ­psychology student Diana Pereira (19), said: “The people carrying out the violence weren’t part of our group; we don’t know who they were. We think they were sent in deliberately to turn things violent and discredit us.”

National police commander Paulo de Almeida denied any brutality against protesters or journalists and said the police had a right to maintain public order.

“This is not true,” he said by phone from Luanda. “People are creating facts to discredit the Angolan police and the authorities and they are trying to create an image for the international community.”

Human Rights Watch strongly condemned the actions of the police and urged an end to “unnecessary and disproportionate force against demonstrators”.

Saturday’s demonstration followed growing speculation about whether Dos Santos will stand again in next year’s election.

An independent Angolan newspaper last week printed a long-circulating rumour that Dos Santos will soon hand over the reins to Manuel Vicente, chairman of Angola’s all-powerful national oil company, Sonangol. The ruling MPLA denied this.

Subscribe to the M&G

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and receive a 40% discount on our annual rate.

Related stories


Subscribers only

Seven years’ radio silence for taxpayer-funded Rhythm FM

Almost R50-million of taxpayers’ money has been invested but the station is yet to broadcast a single show

Q&A Sessions: Zanele Mbuyisa — For the love of people-centred...

She’s worked on one of the biggest class-action cases in South Africa and she’s taken on Uber: Zanele Mbuyisa speaks to Athandiwe Saba about advocating for the underrepresented, getting ‘old’ and transformation in the law fraternity

More top stories

Limpopo teachers put fingers in primary schoolchildren’s underwear, SAHRC hears

The Human Rights Commission in Limpopo is hosting hearings into bullying, corporal punishment and the sexual abuse of learners by teachers in the province

‘We must not allow scavengers to eat the energy sector’

Mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe said the transition to renewable energy cannot be an overnight accomplishment.

Finding an HIV vaccine: Five lessons from the search for...

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that vaccine development and testing timelines can be shrunk from decades to months, but not without shortcomings

Pandemic leaves 1.4 billion learners worldwide behind on education

Human Rights Watch warns that learners may take years to recover from the damage caused by school closures

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…