Malawi human rights activists have asked government to tread carefully in the way it is handling pop diva Madonna, following a strongly worded statement issued Wednesday by the president’s office, State House, in the capital, Lilongwe.
The statement accused Madonna of using her fame and money to press the government of 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, signed by State House Press Officer Tusekele Mwanyongo.
It was, 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.
Human rights activist Billy Mayaya told Nyasa Times that government and Madonna need to resolve whatever differences there are there other than allowing public spat.
“The issue between Madonna and the government indicates that there are undertones of a conflict that needs to be resolved between government and Madonna,” Mayaya told Nyasa Times.
President Joyce Banda was reportedly angered by Madonna’s claims that she has built 10 schools in Malawi.
Buy Mayaya pointed out: “Madonna is contributing to the development of Malawi whether its school blocks or such. It is embarrassing to see the washing of dirty laundry in public instead of cordially resolving the spat behind the scenes through diplomacy.”
The State House statement also accused Madonna of holding Malawi to ransom.
“Granted, Madonna has adopted two children from Malawi. According to the record, this gesture was humanitarian and of her accord. It, therefore, comes across as strange and depressing that for a humanitarian act, prompted only by her, Madonna 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,” reads the statement.
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.”
The statement dismissed Madonna’s claims that Banda is mad because her younger sister, Anjimile Mtila-Oponyo was fired as the CEO for Madonna’s charity, Raising Malawi in 2011 on suspicion of theft. The allegations were denied by Oponyo.
Human rights lawyer Habiba Osman observed: “I think that this war is too personal. The fact that Oponyo has beef with Madonna, there is more that we the public do not know.”
Trevor Neilson, whose Global Philanthropy Group that is managing Madonna’s projects in Malawi, is quoted by The Associated Press, saying: “The President of Malawi appears to be using her office to pursue the financial interests of her family.”
Mtila-Oponyo is now Principal Secretary for Ministry of Education.