Terribly indecent

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There is something terribly indecent about throwing lavish parties in the heart of London for people like Paris Hilton and other celebrities that snooty rich people with no brain like to be seen with. Yet, that was what Isabel Dos Santos was doing. It is particularly indecent at a time when grinding poverty permeates her entire country, when most of her people face appalling living conditions, sky-high infant mortality rates, a lack of drinking water, illiteracy and a host of other ills.

There is something terribly indecent when you are pumping 1.5 million barrels of oil a day and mining diamonds in a country that has become a sad scene where abject, wretched poverty can be seen alongside vulgar, conspicuous displays of wealth on a scale not seen in any other country. 

There is something outrageously indecent about milking your country’s resources and stashing it all in bank accounts and assets in foreign countries that are prepared to help perpetrate the grinding poverty in oil and diamond-rich countries while taking the moral high ground and giving lessons about morality.

“When some decent countries and their companies refused to take ill-gotten money from Dos Santos for reasons that we know, we queued up to extend the favour. Some of our big companies and banks were all too ready to bend over backwards to help in the looting of a country and its people.”

Isabel De Santo’s story as revealed in the Luanda Leaks is a rare window into the tragic kleptocratic narrative that has been gripping Angola for years – a country where corruption is rife, tolerated and quasi-overt. An extremely unequal society largely because of nepotism, cronyism, fraud, graft, state-tolerated thievery and thuggery. It is also unfortunately a rarer window into the story of those who are really responsible for this poverty: companies and countries that have been enriching themselves on the crumbs thrown at them by these high-class thieves without as much as a little thought for the poor people at the expense of whom this is being done.

The countries that have been helping perpetrate this highway theft mentioned in the Luanda Leaks should hang their heads in shame. Unfortunately, they are numerous. And sadly, we are one of them. Many of these countries are quick to criticise small acts of thievery when they don’t benefit from them and look the other way when they have their hands deep in the kitty.

My concern today is not only these countries, but also our own. When some decent countries and their companies refused to take ill-gotten money from Dos Santos for reasons that we know, we queued up to extend the favour. Some of our big companies and banks were all too ready to bend over backwards to help in the looting of a country and its people. As we did when, in 2016, Angolan businessman Alvaro Sobrinho came to Mauritius throwing his weight around and dishing out sedans and credit cards to our compatriots in exchange for changing the law to accommodate his loot. We did sound the alarm bell then, particularly when his foundation, presided over by our former president of the republic, promised to give 10 of our graduates “the opportunity to conduct research at some of the world’s leading universities” including “the University of Cambridge and the University of Edinburgh in the UK, amongst others at the pinnacle of international research”. We did suggest that this money be used to attenuate the high illiteracy rate in Angola instead. In the end, no student managed to go to the “pinnacle of international research”. Others did however benefit extensively from Sobrinho’s generosity. Instead of feeling embarrassed about that, we added another layer by accommodating, not only Isabel Dos Santos but her brother as well!

Our defence that we are not the only country and that there are 40 others revealed in the leaks is pathetic. It is as good as saying that if we did not help impoverish Angola and its people, other countries would jump on the opportunity or that when evil is widespread, it becomes acceptable. It is tantamount to arguing that if we did not sell drugs, others would. It is the argument of criminals with no conscience. It is indecent! It is obscene!

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