27th April 2008
Yohane Banda, 33, said the singer had reneged on a promise to allow him to maintain regular contact with his son David, whom he last saw in 2006.
Banda, a peasant farmer, said he had not received any correspondence since the three-year-old was taken to London by Madonna and her husband, the film director Guy Ritchie.
Madonna, 49, began adoption proceedings after meeting the boy at an orphanage in Malawi. At the time it was claimed that the singer had used her celebrity status to fast-track the adoption, an allegation she denies.
The adoption is due to be approved formally by a court in Lilongwe, the Malawian capital, next month. Because the terms of the agreement are secret under Malawian law, it is not clear whether Banda’s intervention will jeopardise the adoption.
Banda, who first expressed his frustration at not being kept informed about his son’s progress a year ago, said the star had failed to address his concerns and he now regretted giving the boy up.
“I feel robbed. I should be able to see my son and say hello,” Banda said. “I don’t know how he is growing, what person he is turning into. This pains me because it looks like he is not my son any more.”
Banda, from Lipunga, a village 100 miles from Lilongwe, claims Madonna promised to keep him updated about his son’s well-being and his progress adapting to life with the celebrity couple and their two children.
“I was promised by Madonna that I would be able to see my son,” he said. “The government people that were coming to see me also assured me that they would facilitate my meetings with my son. I miss him so much because he is my only son, the only gift of life from God – all others have died.
“I told her [Madonna] that although I was giving her my son she should look after him well . . . I told her that she should raise him, educate him and make sure that he does not forget me and Malawi.
“Now I fear that my child will never know his roots and will not know me. He is the only surviving child I have and I regret the whole thing now. It’s so painful sometimes to realise that I have been forgotten.”
Banda claims the star snubbed him during a visit to the country in April last year. Madonna funds six orphanages through her Raising Malawi charity and is setting up one for 4,000 children in a village outside the capital.
“The last time Madonna came to Malawi, I didn’t know she was here and that she visited the orphanage. [If I had known] I would have been given a chance to see my son,” he said.
Banda said the only recent pictures he had seen of David were shown to him by journalists and the orphanage where his son lived before he was adopted. He added that he had not been allowed to keep any of the photographs. Banda said he hoped he would be given the opportunity to see his son again when Madonna, who has been granted temporary custody of the boy, returns to Malawi to conclude the adoption.
“I am praying that I have a chance to see him. All I want is for them to maintain contact as promised, to teach him I am his real father,” he said.
In a documentary premiered in America last week, the singer said that when she first saw David, nobody knew the whereabouts of his father. When she returned to see him three months later, Madonna said he “had pneumonia, malaria and God knows what else”.
The Malawian government has already recommended that the adoption go ahead. A report by an official who visited the singer’s London home last year concluded that the adoption was “in the best interests” of the boy.
Justin Dzonzi, a lawyer and prominent critic of the adoption, said both Madonna and the Malawian government had a moral duty to maintain contact between Banda and his son.
His group, the Human Rights Consultative Committee, is calling for a change in the law to ban adoptions by foreigners.
“If the government and Madonna promised, as is being claimed, to keep the biological father updated on his child, then they have to honour that for the sake of the poor man,” he said.
“By allowing the adoption of his child he clearly surrenders his parental rights to Madonna and her husband but he still deserves some news on his boy.”
Yohane Banda is no relation to Mabvuto Banda, the journalist who wrote this article