Angola: Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend – OpEd


By Rafael Marques de Morais

On 5 November 2010 the president of the Republic of Angola, José Eduardo dos Santos, authorised the minister of Mining and Industry to extend the terms of a diamond mining concession in Luanda Norte province, primarily to the benefit of his daughter Welwitschea José dos Santos, usually known as ‘Tchizé’.

Presidential Decree 296/10 of 2 December 2010 ordered a two-year extension to Projecto Muanga’s Licence for Prospecting, Research and Identification for Kimberlite diamonds, in Lunda Norte province. President dos Santos initially authorised the project on 14 July 2005 as a partnership between the state diamond company Endiama (51 per cent), Sociedade de Desenvolvimento Mineiro – SDM (20 per cent), Odebrecht (19 per cent) and Di Oro (10 per cent). SDM is a joint venture between Endiama and Odebrecht, a Brazilian multinational.

Di Oro – Sociedade de Negócios, established in 2003, is owned entirely by Tchizé dos Santos (73.34 per cent), her husband Hugo André Nobre Pêgo (16.66 per cent), and the president’s son, José Eduardo Paulino dos Santos, who is a singer under his stage name ‘Coreon Dú’ (10 per cent).

However, at the time when Projecto Muanga’s partnership agreement was signed, Di Oro – Sociedade de Negócios e Alta Costura Ltd (which translates as ‘Business and Haute Couture Company’) were in another line of business. Article 2 of the agreement describes its business as ‘haute couture, fashion and clothing, business management and industrial enterprise, decoration, marketing cosmetics, wedding outfits, cocktail parties, birthdays and gifts’.

On 30 September 2005, two months after José Eduardo dos Santos had approved the granting of a large percentage of the kimberlite business to his children, the beneficiaries changed the statutes and name of the original company. Its name was changed to simply ‘Di Oro – Sociedade de Negócios Limitada’ and it redefined its purpose to include ‘geological study, prospecting and exploration of diamonds, participation in partnerships in the diamond business, hotel and clothing industry, general trade, import and export’ (article 2).

The presidential decree shows what President dos Santos has made of the policy of zero tolerance on corruption that he announced on 21 November 2011. He even declared at the time that the MPLA, as the ruling party, had ‘timidly applied the principle of keeping check on the government’s management practices, through the National Assembly and the Court of Accounts’.

In the same speech, the president of the Republic and of the MPLA suggested that his party’s lack of courage in fighting corruption had been ‘taken advantage of by irresponsible persons and by people of bad faith in order to squander resources and for illegal and even harmful or fraudulent management practices’. Dos Santos also said: ‘I think we must adopt a critical and self-critical attitude in relation to the party’s political conduct in this area’.

Yet the president’s administrative action of favouring his children in a business deal with the Angolan state itself amounts to a crime of corruption, according to the Law on Public Probity (article 25, 1, a).

The president of the Republic, by a broad interpretation, is subject to the Law on Public Probity, which is applicable to all public servants (article 15, 1). More specifically, he is also subject to the law as chief of the executive, of which he is a member (article 15, 2, a).

Odebrecht, for its part, has committed the crime of bribing the president of the Republic, through promising 10 per cent of the share capital of Projecto Muanga to the daughter of the president who personally signed the contract with António Mamieri, the representative of the Brazilian multinational. Projecto Muanga’s contract lays down (article 25) that Odebrecht and OMSI undertake to provide the investment ‘for all the expenses of Prospecting, Research and Identification, on its own account and at its own risk,’ as well as taking responsibility for any damage resulting from the failure of the project (article 27). In other words, Di-Oro’s contribution to the project was nothing more than the signature of the president, who is the father and father-in-law of its shareholders.

According to the Angolan Constitution (article 127, 1 on criminal responsibility), the president is responsible for acts of bribery in the course of exercising his duties (art 129, 1, b) and can be removed for crimes of bribery, embezzlement and corruption.

José Eduardo dos Santos has regularly made official decrees that have helped his children to get rich by illegal means. On 30 November 2005, the head of state authorised the contract for the prospecting, research and identification of the first diamond deposits in Projecto Cabuia, north-east of Saurimo in Luanda Sul province (Decree 106/05 of 9 December by the Council of Ministers). The consortium made up of Tchizé dos Santos’s firm N’Jula Investments, together with partner companies Miningest and Sambukila, was granted 5 per cent of the mining project’s shares, without having to make any financial, material or technical contribution to the working of the 3,000 square kilometre concession.

Projecto Cabuia’s contract states that Equatorial Diamonds, led by the businessman Hélder Bataglia, undertook the entire financing of the project, on his own account and at his own risk, and was entitled to 44 per cent of the shares. Endiama, as representative of the state, was promised 51 per cent of the shares. Again, one can say that Equatorial Diamonds is guilty of bribing the president of the Republic, in order to obtain his approval of the project.

Yet strangely, although the contract was meant to be for a period of five years, Executive Decree 7/06 of 30 January 2006 by the Ministry of Geology and Mines presents a different version of the same contract that was signed only two months earlier with respect to Projecto Cabuia. In the new version Tchizé dos Santos’s consortium acquired 30 per cent of the shares for the period of diamond exploration, Endiama 35.5 per cent, and the investor, Equatorial Diamonds, the remaining 34.5 per cent. This new arrangement involved the direct transfer of state capital, from Endiama, for the benefit of the president’s daughter and with his consent.

These blatant acts of corruption by the president of the Republic make a mockery of what the government says on the subject of good governance, transparency and public service.

Rafael Marques de Morais is an Angolan journalist and writer with a special interest in Angola’s political economy and human rights. In 2000 he won the distinguished Percy Qoboza Award for Outstanding Courage from the National Association of Black Journalists (US). In 2006, he received the Civil Courage Prize, from the Train Foundation (US) for his human rights activities.

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