The rift between Madonna and Malawi President Joyce Banda deepened on Thursday, when the pop star issued a statement responding to Banda’s criticisms of her behavior on a recent trip to Malawi, calling Banda a liar and claiming that the condemnation was retribution for firing Banda's sister from her charity.
According to the BBC, the spat between Madonna and Banda began when the “Material Girl” allegedly complained about treatment she received on a goodwill trip to the southeast African nation. In spite of the 54-year-old singer’s charitable contributions to the country, the Malawian government issued a statement earlier this week, alleging that Madonna’s demands for special treatment had been out of line, and that she had entered the country expecting that “poor people dance for her.”
Madonna, who has two adopted children from the country, has sponsored a number of charity projects in the nation including Raising Malawi and the documentary, “I Am Because We Are,” both of which President Banda's sister, Anjimile Mtila-Oponyo, worked on before being fired on suspicion of theft. Oponyo later sued Raising Malawi for wrongful termination, and currently holds a senior post in the Ministry of Education.
"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,” President Banda wrote in the statement on Wednesday. “Such treatment, even if she deserved it, is discretionary not obligatory.”
Banda also described the singer as "a musician who desperately thinks she must generate recognition by bullying state officials instead of playing decent music on the stage,” and added that "among the many things that Madonna needs to learn as a matter of urgency is the decency of telling the truth.”
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Not one to take such criticisms lying down, Madonna responded to the attack, calling Banda’s allegations “lies” and saying that she would not be deterred by his comments or the negative press. “I’m saddened that Malawi’s 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 shared on Raising Malawi’s blog. “I have no intentions of being distracted by these ridiculous allegations.”
She went on to cite the strides her charities have made in the region, saying that over 4,800 children were attending primary school in facilities that she and her charities had helped to build. She closed the open letter by saying that she had made a commitment to Malawian children, and that she would continue to honor it.
“I did not ever ask or demand special treatment at the airport or elsewhere during my visit. I will not be distracted or discouraged by other people’s political agendas,” Madonna said. “I made a promise to the children of Malawi and I am keeping that promise.”
Madonna’s philanthropic advisor, Trevor Neilson, called the remarks retribution for Oponyo's firing. “Madonna is the largest individual philanthropist in Malawi,” Neilson told the BBC. “We will continue to fund programs that support children in Malawi.”
Madonna previously generated controversy when she was accused of "fast-tracking" her adoption of son David Banda, and later when Banda's biological father said that he thought the child might be better off in Malawi.