Madonna vs Malawi: A very uncharitable relationship

The President says she is a bully. Madonna says the President is a liar. So how did a mercy mission go so horribly wrong?

Madonna’s trip to Malawi this month should have been a straightforward affair: visit her charitable project, catch up on its progress and head home, basking in fond memories and good publicity.

Instead, barely a week after returning, the singer has found herself embroiled in a bitter row with the President of the country where her two adopted children were born.

In an extraordinary statement issued by President Joyce Banda’s office, the singer was accused of demanding VIP treatment, “bullying state officials” and chaining Malawi to “an obligation of gratitude”.

Although Madonna has accused the President of “lies” 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, the singer’s reputation in the country, which she first visited in 2006, has suffered a serious blow.

The row has escalated since Malawi’s Education Minister, Eunice Kazembe, accused the singer of exaggerating the scale of her charitable work in the country. Madonna’s charity, Raising Malawi, claims to have built 10 schools serving more than 4,800 children, but Mrs Kaembe told the BBC that in reality she had built “classrooms at existing schools”.

Relations with the government worsened when Madonna was reported to have been angered when she, her four children and her entourage were made to queue and check-in with ordinary passengers at the Kamuzu International Airport on their departure from Malawi last week.

President Banda’s office responded with an explosive statement accusing Madonna of making unreasonable demands “because she believes she is a music star turned benefactor who is doing Malawi good.”

“Granted Madonna has adopted two children from Malawi,” point number three reads of an excoriating 11-point statement attacking on the singer. It goes on to say that “Madonna wants Malawi to be forever chained to the obligation of gratitude.”

Claiming that Madonna had accused the President’s sister Anjimle Oponyo of “pulling the strings against her” because the singer not been “receiving the attention and the graces that she believes she deserved”, the statement archly points out that other celebrities of “equally dazzling stature” – including Chuck Norris, Bono and footballers David James, Rio Ferdinand and Gary Neville – had all conducted themselves with more decorum on charitable trips to the country.

Madonna called the allegations “ridiculous”.

“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,” she said in a statement on Raising Malawi’s website. “

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”.

Madge vs Malawi: Statements

Joyce Banda

“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.”

Madonna

“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 demand special treatment at the airport or elsewhere during my visit.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager - OTE £60,000

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In 2014, they launched the worl...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Design Lead

£23958 - £29282 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading...

Guru Careers: Bathroom Showroom Manager / Bathroom Sales Designer

£22 - £25k basic + Commission=OTE £35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Bathroom Sh...

Recruitment Genius: HR Recruitment Advisor

£21000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of children's ser...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones