Angolan President Joao Lourenco on Monday denied “any tension” with his long-serving predecessor Jose Eduardo dos Santos, many of whose relatives and friends he has sacked from public office in a fight against corruption in the oil-rich southern African nation.
In November, within three months of taking control of Angola, Lourenco sacked dos Santos’s daughter – Africa’s richest woman – as head of the state-run oil company Sonangol. In recent weeks, he has fired a string of other business figures closely associated with his predecessor.
A long-standing pillar of the regime, the new president had promised to distance himself from the dos Santos clan during his successful campaign ahead of the August 23 poll.
Dos Santos, 75, finally quit power in August after ruling the country for 38 years. He is still head of the ruling MPLA party and has publicly deplored his successor’s “radical” decisions.
“I don’t see any tension in our relations,” Lourenco told a press conference marking 100 days in power.
“The president of the party is guided by the statutes of the party and I as president seek to respect and obey the constitution,” he said, adding that he had “normal working relations” with dos Santos.
Before retiring, dos Santos took care to freeze by law the hierarchy of the security forces for several years. But Lourenco replaced the heads of the police and military intelligence anyway.
Angola, along with Nigeria, is one of Africa’s biggest oil producers, pumping out 1.7 million barrels per day. But the oil wealth has bypassed the overwhelming majority of citizens who live in grinding poverty.
Sonangol has ordered a probe into “possible misappropriation” of funds by Isabel dos Santos, and Lourenco on Monday said the sacking was not politically motivated.
“The person who was replaced isn’t a member of the opposition,” he noted.
He also hinted that dos Santos’s son, Jose Filomeno dos Santos, could be axed as the head of the country’s sovereign investment fund.
“I am not saying I’m going to sack him but it is possible that it could happen,” he said.
Lourenco refused comment on dos Santos’ future as head of the MPLA. In 2016, dos Santos pledged to retire from politics in 2018.
“It’s up to him to say if he will do that, if he upholds his promise,” he said.