Malawi president did not approve Madonna statement

Joyce Banda said to be furious at her public relation staff over statement labelling singer a bully

Madonna visiting schoolchildren in Chorwe, Malawi, at the beginning of April. Photograph: Liz Rosenberg Media/AP Photo

Madonna visiting schoolchildren in Chorwe, Malawi, at the beginning of April. Photograph: Liz Rosenberg Media/AP Photo


Joyce Banda, the president of Malawi, is said to be furious at her public relations staff for making a scathing attack on Madonna without her knowledge or approval.

The press officer concerned has apparently admitted: “Oops, I goofed, the president is mad with me.”

The official statement from Malawi’s state house that labelled the singer a bully who demands VIP treatment and dishonestly exaggerates her contribution to the country made headlines around the world this week.

But yesterday it emerged that, while many in Malawi are believed to support the sentiments expressed, Ms Banda never saw or signed off on the colourful statement. “It looks like she was not consulted on this, nor did the press team realise the implications of their action in picking up a fight with Madonna,” said a source close to Sanjika Palace, the presidential residence on the outskirts of Blantyre.

Another source was quoted by the BBC as describing Ms Banda as “incandescent with anger” over the mix-up.

Madonna’s supporters have argued that the criticism was prompted by the removal of the president’s sister, Anjimile Mtila-Oponyo, as head of the US star’s humanitarian organisation in Malawi.

A leaked email apology, obtained from a source in the Malawian government, was allegedly sent by one of the president’s press officers to Mtila-Oponyo. “HE [Her Excellency Joyce Banda] called me this morning and reprimanded me for issuing the statement without consulting Steve, my boss,” the message says. “I had thought we needed to move quickly to respond to Madonna’s outbursts. Her team has gone flat out to tarnish your image and even that of the president. I thought I had to be vigilant and tell them off! Oops, I goofed, the president is mad with me. If I have wronged HE and yourself, Madam, forgive me, but I wholeheartedly believed that it was incumbent upon me to protect the president from unfair criticism.”

It concludes: “Please, convey my apologies to the president and assure her that nothing of this sort will ever happen again.”

Contacted by phone, the purported author of the email denied any knowledge of it. “No, I don’t know that, where did you get it from?” the press officer said. “How would I know who wrote it? I don’t know anything about that. I’m not prepared to associate myself with something when I don’t know the source.”

Banda’s press secretary, Steve Nhlane, a former newspaper editor assumed to be referred to in the email, declined to comment on the Madonna affair. “I don’t know anything,” he said. “I don’t know if she [Banda] made the comments. I’m not aware of anything."

The official statement had accused Madonna of wanting Malawi “to be forever chained to the obligation of gratitude”.

– ( Guardian service)