BLANTYRE, Malawi (AFP) – US pop icon Madonna on Thursday deepened a war of words with Malawi’s government, accusing them of peddling lies about her charity work.
Fresh from a trip to Malawi, the native country of her two adopted children, Madonna hit back after stinging accusations from government that she had expected VIP treatment and lied about her charity work.
“I am saddened that 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,” Madonna said in a statement.
Banda’s government on Wednesday launched a scathing attack on Madonna in a four-page statement accusing her of being “uncouth” and of bullying state officials.
The statement said that if Madonna had her way “the Malawi government and its leadership should have rolled out a red carpet and blast the 21-gun salute in her honour.”
When leaving the country, the 54-year-old superstar was for the first time denied use of the VIP section at the airport in Lilongwe.
Government said the singer “wants Malawi to be forever chained to the obligation of gratitude” for having adopted two Malawian children.
“Kindness, as far as its ordinary meaning is concerned, is free and anonymous,” added the government in a four-page statement.
“If it can’t be free and silent, it is not kindness; it is something else. Blackmail is the closest it becomes.”
But Madonna denied “these ridiculous allegations”.
“I did not ever ask or demand special treatment at the airport or elsewhere during my visit,” she said.
During the trip she visited schools her charity has built, flanked by her four children, including David Banda and Mercy James who she adopted from the southern African nation.
Madonna vowed she would not be fazed by attempts to divert her from her work in the impoverished country.
“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,” she said.
Malawi also accused Madonna of exaggerating her humanitarian work and said she urgently needed to learn “the decency of telling the truth”.
Madonna says she has over the past nine months built 10 schools across the country, but the Malawi government has trashed these as nothing more than blocks passing for classrooms.
“The difference between a school and a classroom should be the most obvious thing for a person demanding state courtesy to decipher,” said the government.
Government accused the musician of being “uncouth” and thinking “she must generate recognition by bullying state officials instead of playing decent music on the stage.”
Madonna’s charity has poured millions of dollars into the support of children, including orphans in Malawi, which is ranked by the UN Human Development Index as one of the world’s 20 least developed countries.
The government, which relies heavily on aid, said it was open to philanthropists but they should “not hold to ransom the president and any official… because they showed some kindness to any Malawian”.
Madonna is the largest individual philanthropist in Malawi, according to her philanthropy manager Trevor Neilson.
He has pinned the bitter public spat on animosity between Madonna and Banda’s sister Anjimile Oponyo who was meant to head a $15 million girls academy.
The project was abandoned two years ago, mired in allegations of mismanagement and with $3.8 million of unaccounted funds spent.
Neilson said it was a surprise that “the President is using her office to pursue her sister’s financial interests.” Government has denied this.
The divorced singer also faced controversy over her adoptions in 2006 and 2009 from the country’s orphanages, with rights groups claiming she received special treatment from officials.