Angola has been ruled by one man since 1979. Just so you have it in perspective, the man has ruled that country longer than Robert Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe. Until recently, it seemed that only death could, and would, knock him of his perch. Early this year, the man’s health took a nose dive.
In keeping with African presidential tradition, he went for repairs in Europe even as his people groaned died under a failing health system representative of the best of his efforts. In the 38 years of rule, or more accurately misrule, not much has changed in that country regard being had to its massive mineral and oil wealth. Still, millions of landmines lie under Angolan soil, a legacy of a bitter civil war from which he emerged a victor and life president. It is estimated that there is one landline for every Angolan citizen buried beneath the beautiful and wealthy African nation’s soils. Thanks to ill health, Dos Santos, will finally relinquish power, so we are told.
His tenure has not been all about failure. He produced Africa’s first billionaire woman, his own daughter. She is worth over three billion dollars, according to Forbes. She characteristically taken stakes in companies doing business in that country. The source of the massive equity required of the former night club owner to take stakes in such massive enterprises remains mystical at best.
But she is a billionaire, and her companies win lucrative state tenders, which she calls fair. And yes, she now heads the state oil company and her brother heads the sovereign wealth fund set up to invest Angola’s vast wealth, thanks to daddy. Viva Africa!
In the countdown to his ultimate departure, the Angolan Parliament he controls has passed a law barring the incoming President from sacking the heads of the army, police and intelligence - all his appointees - for eight years. He has been appointed a member of the Council of the State, a body that advises the President and whose members are immune from prosecution. He has promoted more than a 150 law enforcement officers in the advent of his departure. He will remain the head of the MPLA, the governing party and would be immune from prosecution.
Angola is, according to Transparency International, one of the 20 most corrupt countries in the world. It will need something stronger than vagina soap to return to factory settings. I should not digress. We are talking about leadership and accountability.
What comes out of this story, more than the glaring examples of corruption and nepotism, is fear. A fear of prosecution. No African leader, who knows what he did or did not do, wants to leave the door of prosecution open behind him on his departure.
If they cannot destroy the institutional mechanism needed to hold them to account, they would destroy the evidence. And of course they characteristically do both. In its dying days, the South African apartheid regime, certain of regime change, got its incinerators on overdrive.
Today, South African children read their rights from recycled paper that held the evidence behind their parents’ murders and their former government’s crimes. The evidence is right there in their hands. It is in the milk carton from which they drink, the Constitution from which they read, it is in the tissue paper they wipe their sweat with, even as they search for answers.
Leaders must not only be accountable to the public. They must be publicly accountable. They are vested with public trusts which must be discharged with due fidelity.
A leader who has a need to close or weaken institutions of prosecution on his departure, to destroy evidence or otherwise weaken the hand of his successor, is one who knows where the skeletons are buried. So is a leader who has a need to rig elections to keep their party, and by extension, their deployees and apologists, in power. Such a leader has read the life story of Fredrick Chiluba. It ends thus; “there are many days for the thief, and one day for the owner”.
A prosecution is not a commission of enquiry whose results can be buried under the traditional, fictitious pretext of national security. It is public, and promises as an end, both the repossession of ill-gotten wealth and a subtraction of the offender from society.
More than anything, it promises shame of. No African president, used to undeserved or feigned ovation, wants that. They would rather die in office.
I am looking forward to the Masisi presidency with hope. He ascends without a reputation for corruption having been a Vice-President for sometime now. There can be no better lane from which to start his ten year long journey. I pray for him, and I hope he keeps it that way. I hope he strengthens oversight institutions and invites them to hold him to account.
That would be the ultimate measure of his personal worth. All else would be about improving the national economy and bettering the socio economic welfare of the people, subjects African presidents only excel in as regards themselves. If he avoid ending like Dos Santos, he would join the few elite leaders of integrity Africa has had, and I am proud that most were made in my country. Masisi may well be our donkey milk vagina soap.