Angola is currently Africa’s biggest oil producer but the state oil company, Sonangol, has been having problems associated with falling oil prices and corruption.
Considering oil sales account for over 90 percent of Angola’s foreign exchange earnings, the state oil company is Angola’s biggest source of state funding, making the flailing company a huge issue.
In a bid to improve the revenue making capacity of the state oil company, Angola’s incumbent President, Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, had earlier in the year fired the entire Sonangol board and appointed a new one. In June, he appointed his daughter Isabel dos Santos to head the new board.
Isabel dos Santos, prior to her appointment to head Sonangol, had hit billionaire status and is actually referred to by Forbes as the richest woman in Africa. She has had to defend and justify her fortune for a long time as not being a result of her father’s clout. The appointment to head the state oil company did not help her arguments.
After her appointment, Isabel dos Santos promised to use her entrepreneurial expertise to save the struggling company and said that she would increase transparency and streamline its operations. To that end, in August, she oversaw the purchase of U.S.-based oil explorer Cobalt International Energy’s Angolan interests for $1.8 billion.
Financial Times, however, reports that the deal was overshadowed by allegations of corruption around the Houston company’s local partner, appointed by the Angolan government.
Now, nearly four months later, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos will have to explain to his country’s Supreme Court why he hired his daughter to head the board. According to Angolan media, Dos Santos has to respond within a week.
Independent news site Rede Angola reported that a group of about a dozen lawyers is insisting that the appointment breaks Angola’s laws against patronage. The group of lawyers has approached the court on these grounds (officials being blocked from appointing their immediate family) and asked that Isabel dos Santos be removed.
One lawyer David Mendes, told Rede Angola this week that the fact that the Supreme Court did not immediately dismiss their injunction is already a victory. He said that it would be the first time the President will have to account to the court. Dos Santos and his daughter are yet to respond to the court’s decision.