30 May 2017

Angola: All the President's Children

Photo: Maka Angola
Eduane Danilo dos Santos - the son of President José Eduardo dos Santos.
analysis

Are you suffering from corruption fatigue?

Yes, it gets to us all. There is just so much of it. Everywhere.

Shameless, unethical, immoral, illegal, self-serving behavior is rampant.

From the USA to North Korea, it seems few countries are immune to the self-enriching predations of the "one-percenters".

So how should we react to the news that the jobless, student, twenty-something year-old child of an ageing African dictator threw down $500,000 on a charity bid just so he could be photographed alongside some Hollywood stars like Will Smith?

Before you yawn and turn the page, consider this. While this pampered princeling was quaffing champagne at the AMFAR gala in Cannes, dozens of his fellow countrymen of all ages were dying unnecessarily for lack of the most basic medicine and medical equipment. That's because his country's oil wealth has been siphoned off year after year, leaving little in the state budget for the necessities of life for the vast majority of the population.

Meet Eduane Danilo dos Santos, known as Danilo. He's one of the many (at least nine) children fathered with different women by José Eduardo dos Santos, who as President of Angola for the past 37 years has amassed a fortune estimated at billions of dollars, while failing to ensure the most basic services are provided in the country he 'stewards'.

Danilo is the eldest of the four children of the marriage of President dos Santos to Ana Paula, who in a spectacular career move, was promoted from flight attendant on the presidential private jet to first lady of Angola. She and her children want for nothing while more than 24 million Angolans live below the poverty line.

Still, half a million euros for Aids research is money for a good cause, no? And what did Danilo get in return? Initial reports said his winning bid scored an exceptionally ugly watch. One day later, in response to the outcry, Danilo apologized and said the bid was not for the watch but for a series of pictures (actually photographs) by George Hurrell for the use of his own (previously-unknown) charity named "Espirito de Crianca" (Spirit of the Child).

Danilo appears to think that the acquisition of a series of photographs for the sum of 500,000 euros is somehow justifiable, because of his shared commitment to promoting art and culture along with finding a cure for HIV/AIDS.

This level of hubris is staggering. But then his father's political party still stakes its reputation on achieving an end to the Angolan civil war in 2002. And after 15 years in which the MPLA elite got richer while the country got poorer, their current election campaigners have the cheek to go on state television and announce that there are "intangible benefits" to having the MPLA in power, such as "the oxygen we breathe, which is also a benefit of peace".

Did you think Nigeria epitomized the worst of African corruption? Or Equatorial Guinea? Think again. Of all the African nation states, only Guinea Bissau (168) and Libya (in last place at 170) score worse than Angola (164) on Transparency International's Corruption Index.

Consider, also, that Danilo was splashing the cash and celebrating while his own father was believed to be receiving medical treatment just 600 kilometers along the Mediterranean coast.

It's true that the recent state of President Dos Santos's health has been a closely-guarded secret. When Maka Angola reported that a sudden medical emergency had required the President to be whisked to a private hospital in Barcelona, on May 1, the President's eldest daughter (and self-described African billionaire) Isabel dos Santos threw a tantrum on social media. She accused Maka Angola of a lack of consideration for the feelings of his family, stating (wrongly) that the report suggested he had already died. It hadn't. Dos Santos returned to Angola yesterday, and seemingly recovered from his illness.

But Danilo must surely be in the know. After all his mother Ana Paula was at his father's side when he was flown out of Angola.

How would young Eduane Danilo have access to 500,000 euros? At nearly 26 years old he is still a student and has yet to forge a career of his own.

However, he is (naturally) a beneficiary of his family's immensely wealthy holdings. It's said his teenage allowance was a hefty US $20,000 per month.

Along with his mother, Ana Paula dos Santos, he is a partner in a newly-created Angolan financial institution named the 'Banco Postal'. In common with his younger siblings, he holds stock in a private holding company called 'Deana Day Spa' in which his mother is the majority shareholder. And, in spite of having no relevant experience, he was entrusted with the privatization of Angola Telecom.

He also shares with his mother a penchant for big gala events. Ana Paula is notorious in Angola for having taken charge of the 'Miss Angola' event as part of the 'Miss Universe' pageant. She is equally well known for having emptied the coffers of successive Angolan embassies in countries hosting the Miss Universe pageant to fund her entourage's luxury stays and shopping expeditions.

The pattern of behavior of the Dos Santos family and all their hangers-on has been to siphon off state funds for their own use whenever they want. To them it is clearly irrelevant that children are routinely dying in Angola's under-funded hospitals for lack of syringes or medicines. They see no need to concern themselves that there is widespread hunger and poverty. In the style of the Roman Emperor Nero, they will continue to play while their country goes to hell on a handcart. And they hope the rest of us are too fatigued to do anything but clap politely and let them get on with it.

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