The skirmish between Madonna and the Malawian government has taken yet another turn with the country’s President reportedly “incandescent with anger” over a statement released by her own office harshly criticising the American singer.
Sources described as “well-placed” told the BBC that President Joyce Banda was unaware of the statement released on Wednesday which accused Madonna of “bullying state officials” and chaining Malawi to “an obligation of gratitude”.
Madonna, who visited the country last week with her children, including her two adopted Malawian-born kids David and Mercy James, both 8, to see schools built by her charitable donations, hit back at the criticisms calling them “lies”.
President Banda was reportedly in the dark about the statement issued by senior officials two days ago which accused Madonna of making unreasonable demands “because she believes she is a music star turned benefactor who is doing Malawi good”.
The statement said: “Granted, Madonna is a famed international musician. But that does not impose an injunction of obligation on any government... to give her state treatment. Such treatment, even if she deserved it, is discretionary not obligatory."
Emily Banda, head of Malawi’s NGO board, said President Banda “did not approve” or even know about the statement but told the BBC that there would be no apology for the mistake.
The row escalated after Madonna was reportedly stripped of her VIP status in the country and forced to queue with her children and entourage alongside normal passengers at Kamuzu International Airport when she left the country on Saturday morning.
The singer and her spokesperson were reportedly “very annoyed” at the change in protocol which – although unconfirmed by President Banda - was apparently prompted by a war of words between the Material Girl and the Malawian authorities.
The previous week education minister Eunice Kazembe accused Madonna of exaggerating her charitable work in the country, saying her charity Raising Malawi had built “classrooms at existing schools” rather than entire schools as it claimed.
Mrs Kaembe told press: “They have said... they have built ten schools in Malawi and on our side what we know is that she [Madonna] has built classrooms... these are not schools from our side and really that's the essence of the difference between her side and the Malawi government.”
Madonna called the critical statement “ridiculous” and her spokesman has suggested that the Malawian government’s attitude is based on a grudge held since the President’s sister was removed from her position at the top of Madonna’s charity.
In a statement on Raising Malawi’s website, Maddona wrote: “I’m saddened that Malawi’s President Joyce Banda has chosen to release lies about what we’ve accomplished, my intentions, how I personally conducted myself while visiting Malawi and other untruths.”
Trevor Neilson, whose Global Philanthropy Group manages Madonna’s charitable work in Malawi, said that President Banda appeared to be “using her office to pursue the financial interests of her sister”.