Africa Watch

Africa’s growing list of leader’s problem children

Duduzane Zuma one of league
Duduzane Zuma.jpg

From Egypt in the north to South Africa the is a growing list of children of heads of state being accused of craft and corruption – cashing in on their parent’s position.

The children of at least six African countries have been in the news over such allegations in recent years. The list looks as follows:

  • South Africa – Douzaine Zuma, son of president Jacob Zuma;
  • Equatorial Guinea – Teodorin Obiang, son and vice-president of Teodoro Obiang;
  • Republic of Congo – Julienne Sassou-Nguesso, daughter of Congolese leader Denis Sassou-Nguesso;
  • Senegal – Karim Wade, son of Senegalese ex-president Abdoulaye Wade;
  • Central African Republic – Jean-Francis Bozizé, son of former CAR President François Bozizé; and
  • Egypt – Gamal and Alaa Mubarak, sons of the countries former president Hosni Mubarak.

Being the child of a president seems to be regarded by some of them as the best way to get rich in Africa. But, the justice system and public opinion seems to be catching up on them.

South Africa

Over the past year, Duduzane Zuma, South African leader Jacob Zuma’s son and one of 21 Zuma children, has been fighting accusations of corruption and collusion with the Guptas, a wealthy and controversial Indian-born business family.

The junior Zuma told the BBC last week that there was “nothing untoward” about his business ties with the Gupta family. “I don’t think they wanted anything from me. They liked me. As I liked them,” Duduzane said, calling himself “a likeable guy”. He added, “I’ve not involved myself in any corrupt practice, in any corrupt business.”

The younger Zuma joins a circle of sons and daughters of African leaders, often apparently destined for high office, who have been hampered by scandal.

Jacob Zuma survived a no-confidence vote in parliament in August – only the latest in a long series. But his 35-year-old son, too, is taking heat from the country’s opposition and part of South African civil society for alleged corruption.

Outa, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse, a non-profit anti-corruption group, filed a complaint against Duduzane last month accusing him and three Gupta brothers of treason, racketeering, extortion, fraud, and forgery.

“It is difficult to imagine an innocent explanation for Duduzane Zuma’s meteoric rise within the [Gupta’s] Sahara organisation,” Outa’s August affidavit states.

First appointed to Sahara’s board of directors on 13 August 2008 at age 26, and could boast no obvious qualifications.

Outa points out that at 35 he has “amassed a vast fortune” and “has multiple business interests many of which involve the Gupta family. The period in question coincides, as it happens, with the rise to power of Jacob Zuma as president in 2009.

A 355-page report by the nation’s anti-graft watchdog last year catalogued accusations of influence peddling, and detailed the president’s potentially problematic ties to the Guptas.

Equatorial Guinea

Teodorin Obiang was at the heart of one of the most hotly anticipated trials of the summer, part of France’s vast so-called “ill-gotten assets” probe, which also concerns purchases made on French soil by long time African leaders and their relatives in countries including Gabon and the Republic of Congo.

Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang’s eldest son was tried in absentia. A former Agriculture and Forestry Minister – promoted to vice president by his father – denied the charges against him, including laundering embezzled public funds.

A big-spending playboy born in 1969, Teodorin built up a lavish collection of assets in France, including art pieces, luxury cars and a building on Paris’s posh Avenue Foch – the property alone valued at €107 million.

The crux of his trial was to determine whether Obiang junior’s assets were obtained legally or fraudulently. The public prosecutor is calling for three years in prison, a €30 million fine and the seizure of the assets in question. The verdict is due in October 27.

Republic of Congo

Julienne Sassou-Nguesso was placed under formal investigation alongside her husband at the end of June in another component of French ‘ill-gotten assets trial. The French justice system is particularly interested in learning the provenance of funds that allowed them to buy a €3 million seven-room mansion with an indoor pool in the affluent Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine in 2006.

They subsequently added €5.34 million in large-scale renovation of the property. Many of the Sassou-Nguesso family’s properties and an array of luxury cars have already been seized.


In March 2015 Karim Wade was sentenced to six years in prison and handed a €210 million fine by a special Senegalese court for reining in ill-gotten gains.

He had been accused of illegally acquiring assets valued at €178 million as an advisor, and then a cabinet minister, under his father.

In June 2016, current Senegalese President Macky Sall pardoned Wade junior after three years behind bars in Dakar, and he then moved to Qatar, where he lives today.

His 91-year-old father, who led Senegal between 2000 and 2012, failed in his bid for a comeback in legislative elections in July.

Observers believe he sought a return to power largely as a means of obtaining amnesty for his son Karim, whom he had always pegged as a natural successor.

Central African Republic

Jean-Francis Bozizé, son of former CAR President François Bozizé – ousted in a 2013 coup d’état – had been subject to an international arrest warrant issued on charges of torture, embezzlement of public funds and complicity in murder.

Until his surprise return to Central African soil last month, he had taken refuge in France.

Back home, he was quickly taken into custody by the MINUSCA, the United Nations peacekeeping force in CAR, and then released under court supervision. His father remains in exile, and is subject to his own international arrest warrant.


Sons of former Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak, Gamal and Alaa were accused, like their father, of having diverted €10 million in public funds for the maintenance of presidential palaces.

In January 2016, an appeals court confirmed three-year prison sentences, and handed a fine of 125 million Egyptian pounds (about €15 million) for all three men. They also had to reimburse 21 million pounds (€2.5 million) to the state.

Both sons, who are in their fifties, were released for time served ln provisional detention after the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that ousted their father.

(This is a translated, and shortened, version of an article first published by France24. The original can be accessed Here.)

by Florence Richard

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