It started like any other relationship between a Western celebrity and an African country.
The high-profile adoption, the donations and community projects and, most importantly, the photo-ops. But it seems Madonna’s little tryst with the southeastern African nation of Malawi has come to a nasty end as the government has accused the pop star of expecting special treatment and blackmailing the country after building a few classrooms.
“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,” read the statement released by the Malawi State House.
The problems began after Madonna was forced to wait in line among ordinary travelers upon her latest arrival in Malawi. On previous trips, the singer was afforded full VIP treatment and allowed to skip the usual passport and customs lines, but the government said that sort of treatment is discretionary, not automatic.
Madonna initially shot back at the government’s statement, refuting the claims in a calm, and measured rebuttal.
"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. I made a promise to the children of Malawi and I am keeping that promise,” she said.
And then she brought out the crazy.
After the story blew up Thursday, Madge went on the war path, calling President Banda a liar and stating that she is only trying to help the children of Malawi.
"President Banda stop spreading lies about me! I’m trying to help the children of Malawi! Here I am standing in front of one of 10 schools I built with Build On in Malawi! Lies have no legs. Only the truth can stand!" Madonna wrote Thursday accompanied with a photo of herself in Malawi.
While Madge calls her expectation of special treatment a tall tale, the handwritten letter she wrote to Malawi's President Joyce Banda at the start of her latest trip takes that contention off the table. In the sloppily written letter that looks like it was composed after a few in-flight cocktails, Madonna refers to the president as "Joyce" and continues, "as you know, I am in Malawi for the week ..." as if the president of a country has the time or desire to drop her schedule to meet with Madonna.
Another, earlier dispatch from the Madonna camp also gives us a glimpse into her delusion of saviorhood as her Malawi project manager unleashed a snarky retort that made sure he reminded Malawi of its poverty.
"Obviously these attacks are influenced by the fact that the president's sister was removed as the head of Madonna's organization in Malawi due to concerns about mismanagement of $3.8 million,” Madonna's Malawian project manager Trevor Neilson told Sky News.
"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."
While the real story probably lands somewhere in the middle of the two accounts, Madonna should pack some extra snacks for her kids the next time they plan to visit Malawi — because it’s likely she’ll be waiting with the rest of us to get those passports stamped.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: AP Photo/Thoko Chikondi)
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