/ 11 April 2013

Banda: Where are the schools Madonna built in Malawi?

Madonna with school children at Mkoko Primary School in the region of Kasungu in central Malawi.
Madonna with school children at Mkoko Primary School in the region of Kasungu in central Malawi.

"Where are the 10 schools she has built? 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," said an angry Banda last week in widely quoted remarks.

The Wednesday statement also questioned Madonna's true intentions in her humanitarian efforts in Malawi, alleging that the singer "wants Malawi to be forever chained to the obligation of gratitude".

"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 statement said.

Malawi's government issued an angry attack on the pop diva Madonna on Wednesday, alleging that she expected to be granted VIP treatment during her controversial tour to this southern African country last week.

A strongly worded statement issued by the president's office accused Madonna of using her fame and money to press Malawi to give her VIP treatment.

"Granted, Madonna is a famed international musician. But that does not impose an injunction of obligation on any government under whose territory Madonna finds herself, including Malawi, to give her state treatment. Such treatment, even if she deserved it, is discretionary not obligatory," said the statement, apparently referring to the singer's annoyance at being stripped of her VIP status on departure from Malawi last Saturday.

Madonna, who has had VIP treatment during her previous visits – including when she jetted into the country on April 1 – was apparently surprised when she and her travelling party had to line up with ordinary passengers and be frisked by airport security.

'Demanded state attention'
"There was a directive that Miss Louise Ciccone, travelling on an American passport, and her children Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon, Rocco Ritchie, Mercy James, David Banda Ciccone Ritchie should use the ordinary passenger terminal on their way to their jet," said an aviation official who refused to be named because he is not authorised to speak to the media.

The statement said Malawi has played host to other international stars like Chuck Norris, Bono, David James, Rio Ferdinand and Gary Neville "who have never demanded state attention or decorum despite their equally dazzling stature".

It also dismissed Madonna's claims that Banda was angry because her younger sister, Anjimile Mtila-Oponyo was fired as the chief executive for Madonna's charity, Raising Malawi.

Trevor Neilson, whose Global Philanthropy Group is managing Madonna's projects in Malawi, defended the pop star against what he called "the long, strange attack" by the country's government.

"As the largest private philanthropist to Malawi we would think that the government would be pleased that she is giving her time and money to one of the poorest countries in the world," Neilson said in a statement, adding that, "at no point, in any way, did Madonna request any kind of VIP treatment, and any claim that she did is nonsense".

Neilson also suggested that the "attacks are influenced by the fact that the president's sister was removed as the head of Madonna's organisation in Malawi".

This has been Madonna's most controversial tour to Malawi since she first visited the southern African country in 2006. Despite the furor, Madonna seemed unfazed.

"My reasons for being here have never changed, I am here because I care deeply about the children of Malawi, that is my main priority," said Madonna last week at the end of her trip. Madonna came along with her two adopted Malawian children, David Banda and Mercy James, both eight, and her children Lourdes (14) and Rocco (12). – Sapa-AP