Angola’s ex president steps down as party chief

Angola’s former president Jose Eduardo dos Santos on Saturday handed over the reins of the ruling MPLA party to President Joao Lourenco after dominating politics for nearly four decades.

“Today, with my head up, I leave and pass on the baton to comrade Joao Lourenco,” dos Santos told crowds at the ruling party headquarters in Luanda, the capital of the oil-rich southern African country.

“Today in this sixth congress is a new era, which means that the new president must mobilise the militant mass to obtain new victory,” he added.

The passing of the baton between the two men is the climax of a handover marked by barely disguised friction and new policies challenging dos Santos’s legacy.

As his rule came to an end, dos Santos said he wanted to be remembered for his dignified exit from the office he held since 1979.


The 76-year-old liberation war veteran did not seek re-election in the August 2017 polls and handed the reins of power to his defence minister Lourenco, 64.

But he remained at the helm of the oil-rich country’s People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) party, where much of the real power is seen to be vested.

On Saturday, “Comrade Number One” relinquished party control of the MPLA to Lourenco and admitted that he made mistakes along the way.

“There is no human activity free from mistakes and I assume that I have committed them as well,” dos Santos said.

“The stepping down of Jose Eduardo dos Santos as MPLA president is an important watershed moment,” said Alex Vines, an Angola expert at the Chatham House think-tank in London.

“It’s been a bumpy transition with a bit of tug-of-war over power between (them).”

By choosing a successor from within his own regime, dos Santos had thought he would be assured a peaceful handover.

He had earlier given control of strategic sectors of the economy to close confidant — including the state oil giant to his daughter Isabel.

Dos Santos also appointed loyalists to head the country’s security forces.

A purge of the old guard

But Lourenco quickly moved to assert his authority after being elected president last year, beginning to dismantle his predecessor’s empire.

On the premise of rebooting the listless economy, Lourenco deposed Isabel from the top job at Sonangol as well as her half-brother Jose “Zenu” Filomeno from the leadership of Angola’s sovereign wealth fund.

Filomeno has since been charged with misappropriating public funds while Isabel faces several graft investigations.

Many of dos Santos’s acolytes have been purged from the highest echelons of Angolan public life including the army and police chiefs as well as executives at state-owned companies.

The clear-out created ructions at the top of the state and the party.

In recent months, the two men and their staffs have sought to make amends and smooth the way to the final handover.

“Everything is going normally, there hasn’t been any turbulence,” said Luzia Ingles, secretary general of the party’s women’s league.

But the fissure between the two men had come close to breaking point.

Dos Santos had originally proposed stepping down from the party leadership by April 2019 — but Lourenco insisted it must be Saturday.

“Lourenco is already entirely autonomous as shown by his sacking of the dos Santos children — all of the country’s sectors have been purged,” said Benjamin Auge, an analyst at the French Institute for International Relations.

Since his election, Lourenco — dubbed “JLo” — has enacted sweeping reforms of the oil sector, the country’s leading source of revenue, with the aim of reassuring investors.

But the task facing the president is daunting: chronic unemployment, sluggish growth and alarming deficits have dogged Africa’s second-largest producer of crude.

Highlighting the impending storm, Angola has said it will seek a $4.5-billion (3.87-billion euro) loan from the International Monetary Fund.

© Agence France-Presse

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

Come what may, the UIF will pay

The fund – the main safety net for unemployed workers – will run at an almost R20-billion deficit

‘Terrorised’ family shines a light on traditional leadership for vulnerable...

The ambiguity between traditional and constitutional leadership has been exposed by the violent banishment of an Eastern Cape family

More top stories

Zuma foundation claims ex-president was prepared to testify, but Zondo...

Zuma’s namesake organisation twists facts and the law – he told Zondo he would answer questions but only in private to the deputy chief justice

Property developers slap Jo’burg environmentalist and conservancy with R197m lawsuit

Century Property Developments and Riversands Developments are suing for income they have allegedly lost because of objections raised

What to do about leaders spouting vaccine misinformation

Refuting lies about vaccines from people in leadership positions may be less about changing their minds and more about protecting those listening

President urges caution against more contagious Covid variant as SA...

The curfew is shorter, alcohol sale times almost normal and more people can meet at religious, social, political and cultural gatherings
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…