Malawi claims Madonna ‘lying’ about contributions

Madonna holds her adopted son David Banda in her arms. Picture: AP
Madonna holds her adopted son David Banda in her arms. Picture: AP
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MADONNA has said she is “saddened” by criticism of her charity work in Malawi, and branded an attack on her by the country’s president “ridiculous”.

THE singer, who has adopted two children from the southern African country, was accused of exaggerating her contribution and demanding special treatment during a visit last week.

A statement from the office of president Joyce Banda said that Madonna had wanted

special treatment and criticised her charity work, which focuses on school building projects.

It said: “Kindness, as far as its ordinary meaning is concerned, is free and anonymous. If it can’t be free and silent, it is not kindness, it is something else. Blackmail is the closest it becomes.”

The singer said she would “continue to follow through on my commitment to help educate the children of Malawi”.

She added: “I’m saddened that Malawi’s president has chosen to release lies about what we’ve

accomplished, my intentions, how I personally conducted myself while visiting Malawi and other untruths. I have no intention of being distracted by these ridiculous allegations.

“I came to Malawi seven years ago with honourable intentions. I returned earlier this month to view the new schools we built. I did not ever ask or demand special treatment at the airport or elsewhere during my visit. I will not be distracted or discouraged by other people’s political

agendas.

“I made a promise to the children of Malawi and I am keeping that promise”.

A spokeswoman for the singer suggested the criticism was inspired by the removal of the president’s sister from her role heading Madonna’s humanitarian organisation in the country.

The singer has a long history of involvement with the country, which she first visited in 2006. She was granted VIP treatment on previous visits, including when she last jetted into the country on 1 April.

But Madonna apparently was surprised when she learned upon leaving Malawi that that was no longer the case, and she and her travelling party would have to line up with ordinary passengers and be frisked by airport security.

“There was a directive that Miss Louise Ciccone [Madonna’s real name], travelling on an American passport, and her children, Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon, Rocco Ritchie, Mercy James and David Banda Ciccone Ritchie should use the ordinary terminal on their way to their jet,” said an aviation official.

The strongly worded statement by the president’s office on Wednesday accused Madonna of trying to use her fame and money to press Malawi into

giving her special treatment.

“Madonna is a famed international musician. But that does not impose an injunction of obligation on any government on whose territory Madonna finds herself, including Malawi, to give her state treatment. Such treatment, even if she deserved it, is discretionary not obligatory,” the statement said.

The presidential statement also questioned Madonna’s intentions behind her humanitarian efforts in Malawi, alleging that the singer “wants Malawi to be forever chained to the obligation of gratitude”.

President Banda was reportedly angered by Madonna’s claims that she had built ten schools in Malawi, and questioned that statement in widely quoted remarks last week.

“Where are the ten schools she has built?” the president asked. “She is just building school blocks at already existing schools. In some cases she just renovated an already existing block.

“This is an insult to the people of Malawi. She can’t be lying to the world at our expense.”

However, Trevor Neilson, whose Global Philanthropy Group is managing Madonna’s projects in Malawi, hit back.

He said: “Obviously these attacks are influenced by the fact that the president’s sister was removed as the head of Madonna’s organisation in Malawi due to concerns about mismanagement of $3.8 million [£2.5m].”