Angola’s president will have to explain why he hired his daughter to head up the state oil company

No longer in charge.
No longer in charge.
Image: Reuters/Ed Cropley
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Angolan president Jose Eduardo dos Santos will have to explain to his country’s Supreme Court why he hired his daughter, who also happens to be Africa’s richest woman, to head up the state oil company. Dos Santos has to respond within a week, according to Angolan media.

Dos Santos appointed his daughter Isabel in June to manage Sonangol after a surprise axing of the board. But a group of about a dozen lawyers says the appointment breaks Angola’s laws against patronage, and have approached a court to have Isabel dos Santos removed. According to Angolan law, public officials may not appoint their immediate family, reports independent news site Rede Angola (site in Portuguese).

That the Supreme Court did not immediately dismiss their injunction is already a victory, lawyer David Mendes told Rede Angola this week. It’s the first time the president will have to account to the court, he said. They’re confident the law is on their side, he added.

Mendes is the same lawyer who successfully defended a rapper and 16 others charged with trying to overthrow the state after they were caught reading a book on non-violent protest. Mendes also defended Angolan journalist (and Quartz Africa Innovator) Rafael Marques when he was jailed for his reports on corruption. Activists, including the now free rapper, and the former prime minister Marcolino Moco, are also planning a march to protest Isabel dos Santos’ appointment.

On her appointment, Isabel dos Santos promised to save the struggling state oil company by increasing transparency and streamlining its operations. In August, dos Santos oversaw the $1.8 billion purchase of U.S.-based oil explorer Cobalt International Energy’s Angolan interests. That deal, however, was overshadowed by allegations of corruption around the Houston company’s local partner, appointed by the Angolan government, according to the Financial Times.

Angola is Africa’s largest oil producer, but Sonangol has been floundering due to falling oil prices and allegations of corruption. The younger dos Santos’ personal vast wealth, said to be around $3.3 billion, has also attracted scrutiny. Dos Santos and his daughter have yet to respond to the court’s decision.