BLANTYRE, Malawi (AFP) – Malawi has launched a stinging attack on US pop icon Madonna, accusing her of expecting “gratitude” and VIP treatment during a visit last week to her charity work in the southern African country.
It was “strange and depressing” that the singer seemed to want “Malawi to be forever chained to the obligation of gratitude” for having adopted two Malawian children, said President Joyce Banda’s government on Wednesday.
“Kindness, as far as its ordinary meaning is concerned, is free and anonymous,” it added 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.”
For the first time, the 54-year-old superstar was denied use of the VIP section at the airport on the trip and had to use the ordinary passenger section.
She was visiting schools her charity has built in central Malawi.
Madonna’s fame did not mean she had to be given “state treatment”, and she was “like any other visitor” not on an official invitation, said the highly critical statement.
A dig was also made about Madonna’s charity work, with the government saying she urgently needed to learn “the decency of telling the truth”.
“For her to tell the whole world that she is building schools in Malawi when she has actually only contributed to the construction of classrooms is not compatible with manners of someone who thinks she deserves to be revered with state grandeur,” it said.
Madonna two years ago abandoned a $15 million girls’ academy, saying she would instead build community schools to accommodate more students.
The project, which was headed by Banda’s sister Anjimile Oponyo, was mired in allegations of mismanagement.
The government on Wednesday dismissed allegations of Oponyo’s involvement in the matter.
But Madonna’s side said Oponyo, who is suing her charity, had a grudge.
“Madonna is the largest individual philanthropist in Malawi and we are a bit surprised that the President is using her office to pursue her sister’s financial interests,” said the star’s philanthropy manager Trevor Nielson.
“We will continue to fund programmes that support children in Malawi, a country where millions of children suffer every day,” he added.
Madonna’s charity has poured millions of dollars into the support of orphans in Malawi, which is ranked by the UN Human Development Index as one of the world’s 20 least developed countries.