Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sons of the father

More grief for Madonna: Yohane Banda now says he didn't realise he'd signed papers giving David up for ever:

Mr Banda, who is illiterate, said he had no idea what the High Court adoption papers he signed had meant and he was "just realising" what the procedure entailed.

He said: "I was never told that adoption means that David will no longer be my son... If I was told this, I would not have allowed the adoption.

"I want more clarification on the adoption. I would prefer that David goes back to the orphanage where I can see him any time I want, rather than send him away for good."

Mr Banda, 32, said he thought Madonna would just "educate and take care of our son".

In a considered and balanced piece in Friday's G2, Xan Brooks provided an interesting overview of the story so far (or, at least, that far). In it, he revealed the root cause of Yohane's financial hardship is that he still owes the dowry to his late wife's family. A sum of forty pounds. Madonna could have reunited the family for less than half the price of a ticket to one of her gigs.

As Madonna's charity Raising Malawi's own website notes, there are a million orphans in Malawi. It's still not clear why she didn't choose one of these, instead of a kid with an extended family. (And, yes, we know that David's life chances have increased expotentially through this circus - but he was already in a relatively better place than any number of his compatriots.)

The Raising Malawi website makes curious reading in light of the past week, too - it suggests the key to its mission is to provide education in order to allow the nation to develop self-sufficient future; it's interesting to know how you'd intend to build an educated population while removing children from the country.

The other curiosity is the Raising Malawi site somehow fails to mention that the organisation was founded by Kabbalah Rabbi Michael Berg - indeed, it even suggests there's no religious element to the charity's work. However, on Berg's Kabbalah blog, the projects aims are described in a slightly different way:

It is Michael Berg’s vision to bring light to all parts of the world. What better place to start than in the african nation of Malawi.

Raising Malawi is a grassroots initiative offering lasting solutions to the orphans of Malawi. Our approach is comprehensivee, compassionate, and effective. Unhindered by obstacles such as bureaucracy and red-tape, Raising Malawi is run and staffed by volunteers, allowing us to raise these children up from powerlessness into self-empowerment – quickly and directly.

We always tense a little when we hear people bemoaning "bureaucracy and red-tape" - normally, it's decried from CBI conference platforms, where they're talking about such tiresome activities as ensuring that workers don't get crushed to death by dangerous machinery and being forced to dispose of their waste properly rather than dumping it in the sea. While we're aware that some developing nations can generate much pointless paperwork, there's something hugely disturbing about a rich cult announcing that it intends to operate in someway above the local laws. The Madonna supporters who are saying "yeah, she's adopted a kid outside the law, but she's given money to the country" might want to investigate those donations a little more deeply.

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