Father 'not told about Madonna adoption plan'

Madonna's attempts to adopt an African baby were thrown into chaos yesterday after the boy's father said he thought his son would return to live with him in Malawi when he is older.

Thirteen-month-old David Banda arrived in Britain last week after Madonna and her husband, Guy Ritchie, visited the southern African country and signed papers granting them temporary adoption rights.

But the boy's father, Yohane Banda, 32, said Malawian government officials told him that David would be cared for by the millionaire singer until he was old enough to come home and work on the small family farm.

"What we agreed with Madonna was that she looks after my child until he finishes school, becomes independent and comes back home to us," he said. "Had they told us that Madonna wanted to adopt my son and make him her own son, we would not have agreed to that."

His cousin, Wiseman Zimba, added: "Our understanding as a family is that David is still part and parcel of our clan. After the good woman nurtures and educates him, he will return back."

Mr Banda spends most of his days tending to his tomatoes and onions in the village of Lipunga 110km west of the Malawian capital, Lilongwe. He decided to place David in an orphanage after his wife died of malaria shortly after giving birth.

Both their previous sons had died young - Garnet at the age of two, Babel at 18 months. One in five of all Malawian children does not make it to the age of five.

In taking David to the Home of Hope orphanage, a dilapidated series of five dormitories 30km away from Lipunga, Mr Banda hoped to provide his son with the nutrition and medical care he was unable to provide.

When Madonna picked David out from a pre-selected group of 12 "contenders", Mr Banda signed papers agreeing to the adoption and gave a series of interviews proclaiming himself happy that David would lead a better life.

But yesterday he said he had not read the adoption papers himself - instead, Malawian government officials had read them out to him. "I cannot read and write so I relied on what the officials told me - that the papers said Madonna would look after the child the way the orphanage planned to educate him and then he comes back to me."

Madonna's decision to adopt a Malawian child has angered some of the country's human rights groups. A coalition of 67 organisations will this week argue in court that Malawi's adoption laws have been flouted. Foreigners must be resident in Malawi for 18 months before they are allowed to adopt.

Mr Banda had previously criticised the human rights groups for interfering in David's adoption but it is unclear if he will support the case now he is aware that David will become part of Madonna's family.

The adoption papers which Mr Banda signed are still in the hands of government officials. While he does not want David to return to the orphanage, Mr Banda said he would wait until he saw the papers he signed before he makes any decision on his son's future.

There are more than a million orphans in Malawi - about one in five of all children. The country's orphanages are full to capacity and Aids, which claims the lives of tens of thousands of Malawians every year, is leaving thousands more children without parents.

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