Cushy opportunities: Isabel dos Santos. Picture: AFP/Publico/Fernando Veludo
Cushy opportunities: Isabel dos Santos. Picture: AFP/Publico/Fernando Veludo

Dedicated fans of Tintin, the reporter-adventurer, and his dog-sidekick Snowy will know that his last adventure took them to the mythical South American banana republic of San Theodoros on a mission to free his friends detained by the corrupt dictator Gen Tapioca.

In one of the illustrations, Tintin’s airliner makes its approach over Tapiocapolis, the capital, watched by two of Tapioca’s military thugs in their World War 2-style German helmets as they patrol a shackland slum. Overlooked by a "Viva Tapioca" billboard, ragged children play in the dirt and a mother cooks in her drainpipe home.

Friends who have had the elusive pleasure of being posted to Luanda tell me that the slums of Tapiocapolis look a lot like the Angolan capital’s, where they have seen real children living in actual drains. This in a city lubricated by oil money which tops the list of the world’s most expensive places in which to live.

There is a story — perhaps apocryphal — of Ana Paula dos Santos, married to the now retired president José Eduardo, returning from a shopping trip to Paris and showing off her new threads to the hungry, worn-out residents of one such slum.

We are, tragically, inured to such stories. After all, the erstwhile president had long been accused of running one of the most corrupt administrations on earth, amassing a multimillion-dollar personal fortune while most Angolans "got by" on $2 a day.

That his son José Filomeno and daughter, Isabel, had built their fortunes through cushy opportunities (such as Isabel’s presidency of Sonangol, the state oil company) was not lost on the world or the poor huddled hungry of Angola.

The ruling family of Luandosantos would not have prospered without the help of what the UK government calls "professional enablers" who are now scuttling for cover as the scorching light of the Luanda Leaks investigations shines in the dark corners.

Viva Tapioca indeed.

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