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confidentially speaking

The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 16th November 2017

A blow against personal rule

Blue Lines

The end of President Robert Mugabe's reign in Zimbabwe – whatever else it presages – sends a clear message to other power families in the region. As Southern Africans were musing over the fin de règne in Zimbabwe, the new President in Angola, João Lourenço sacked Isabel dos Santos from her position as head of the state oil company, Sonangol. Ms Dos Santos, described as one of Africa's richest women with a personal fortune of over US$2 billion, is the daughter of former President of Angola, José Eduardo dos Santos. Even before her father left office, some in Angola's military were calling for an investigation into Isabel's business affairs. That could still come, as could a probe into her brother Zenu's management of the country's sovereign wealth fund.

After Zimbabwean military officers put Mugabe and his wife Grace under house arrest, South Africa's President Jacob Zuma thoughtfully telephoned to inquire about their welfare. After being reassured, Zuma went on national television to update South Africans on the change of the guard in their northern neighbour. The ousting of a long-standing president and his wife, mired in political and corporate corruption, may have given Zuma some twinges of anxiety. Just as Mugabe was trying to promote Grace, Zuma has been energetically backing his ex-wife as his successor to lead the African National Congress. This won't help Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's campaign.