US pop star Madonna has hit out at the Malawi’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and accused Principal Secretary for basic and secondary education Anjimile Mtila-Oponyo of creating trouble for her projects in Malawi instead of welcoming her as a private donor.
Addressing journalists on Friday through her manager Trevor Neilson when she visited Mphandula Child Care Centre at Namitete in the capital Lilongwe, Madonna said she is surprised that the ministry claims that it did not endorse her efforts to construct classroom blocks in primary schools across the Malawi.
“Madonna has no problem with the President of this country. But Anjimile Oponyo, who is the sister to the President, is demanding money and matters are in court. Her contract was terminated as head of Madonna’s girls’ school project in Malawi.
“She is now using her position [as Principal Secretary] in the Education Ministry to create trouble for Madonna. She is using her office to avenge on her personal grudge with Madonna and pursue her personal financial interest. We are surprised that she is doing that,” said Neilson.
He said Madonna is surprised that she has not been welcomed in the Malawi by the ministry.
“If the Education Ministry sees it as their job to create problems instead of creating a good relationship, it’s very surprising.
“Madonna can continue her work here [even] if the politicians don’t want to welcome her because her work is all about the children who are here. The politicians can stay. Even donors are also surprised that government is treating Madonna like this when she is the biggest private donor in the country,” said Neilson.
Madonna arrived in Malawi on Easter Monday and toured an orphanage—the Ministry of Hope Crisis Nursery in Lilongwe—and on Tuesday went to Kasungu where she inspected a two-classroom block at Mkoko Primary School, which she built.
On Wednesday, Malawi’s Minister of Education Eunice Kazembe lashed out at Madonna for claiming to have built 10 schools across the country.
Asked to comment on the ministry’s statements that Madonna has misrepresented facts outside Malawi on her educational projects in the country, Neilson only said: “Government was consulted in every step of the way on Madonna’s projects.”
‘We can’t refuse help’
In an interview on Saturday, Kazembe said it is wrong for Madonna to accuse the ministry of not welcoming her in the country.
“We didn’t know that she was coming. There is absolutely no communication in the ministry telling us that she was coming and that she would be visiting some schools. The protocol is wrong; otherwise we have no problem with Madonna.
“Who are we to refuse when somebody says ‘I want to help you.’ We have so many problems in the education ministry where we need support. It would be madness to refuse to get support. Next time they should communicate to us,” said Kazembe.
Kazembe refused to comment on Madonna’s claims that Oponyo was influencing the ministry’s reaction to her projects in the country, referring Nation on Sunday to Oponyo who could not be reached on Friday and Saturday.
Madonna, who has adopted two children—Mercy and James—from Malawi, came under fire when she announced in January last year that her Raising Malawi charity was teaming up with a non-profit group, BuildOn, to construct the schools, which would educate at least 1 000 children a year.
Her earlier plans to build a state-of-the-art school for about 400 girls just outside Lilongwe collapsed in 2011, and the board of her Raising Malawi charity was fired.
Her staff in Malawi later sued her for unfair dismissal and the two parties agreed on an out-of-court settlement.
Request to meet JB
On reports that Madonna requested to meet the President and whether the request had been granted, Neilson said Madonna did not request to meet Banda.
“Madonna didn’t request to meet the President. We read in the media that Madonna had snubbed the President. After hearing about that, Madonna was shocked and felt very bad about it. She then wrote in her own handwriting to the President telling her how much she likes her and what she is doing. She told the President that should there be a need to meet, Madonna would be happy to meet her,” said Neilson.
Presidential press secretary Steven Nhlane on Wednesday said Banda received a letter from Madonna requesting to meet her but said he did not know Banda’s position on whether she would grant Madonna an audience.
In her remarks on Friday, Madonna said her reasons for being in Malawi have not changed despite the problems.
“I am happy to be here in Malawi. I have seen lots of amazing things happening around. I have learnt a lot in the last five years.
“I have not forgotten my commitment to the children and orphans of Malawi. I will continue to work for the Malawian children in fields of education and health care,” said Madonna.