Last Monday, Madonna arrived in Malawi a VIP. Last Saturday, she left the country with her VIP status revoked.
She and the first female president of Malawi are having a real bitch-off.
The Madonna camp's version of events is that the singer flew to the country last week to check in on some projects she had helped fund through her charity, Raising Malawi. She went to some classrooms her foundation had helped build. She visited a hospital and some orphanages. Before she left, she scrawled out a bizarre handwritten note (on her bright yellow personal stationery) to Malawi President Joyce Banda, in which she:
- Casually addressed the president as "Joyce"
- Misspelled the word "responsibility"
- Said it "would be great" to meet if Joyce had time
Joyce, it seems, did not have time.
That sneaky Joyce.
Now, VIP service at Malawi's international airport isn't anything crazy. It would have let Madonna bypass check-in and security lines. It would have provided limo service to her private jet. It would have granted her access to a special lounge where other VIPs would have pretended not to notice she was Madonna. If you're Madonna, this is the bare minimum of VIP service. This is the complimentary cheddar bay biscuit basket of star treatment. The point is she'd had it on every previous trip, and now all of a sudden, it was gone.
After U-IP Madonna had flown away on her private plane into a distinctly non-important sunset, President Banda wasted no time launching a volley of criticisms against the trip. She complained to a journalist that Malawi officials hadn't been notified of Madonna's visit. She implied that the popstar was taking advantage of ordinary citizens:
"She just came unannounced and proceeded to villages and made poor people dance for her. And immigration officials opened the VIP lounge for her just because previously she enjoyed the VIP status."
Trevor Neilson, Madonna's philanthropic advisor, accused Banda of being influenced by a "grudge" her sister Anjimile Oponyo holds against his client, who fired Oponyo from her position as head of Raising Malawi a couple years ago on suspicion of theft. (A report by Neilson's Global Philanthropy Group consulting firm placed much of the blame for Raising Malawi's failure to construct a girls' school, after receiving $3.8 million in funds to get started, on Oponyo, who is alleged to have mismanaged funds for personal gain. At the time, Malawi officials blamed Madonna for failing to provide the $15 million she promised.)
President Banda has previously said that she cannot bar Madonna from visiting Malawi because "Malawi is a free nation."
Which isn't exactly a "You're welcome any time!" kind of salutation.