Last Friday, Madonna officially won her appeal in Malawi’s courts, ensuring that toddler Mercy James will be Madonna’s legal daughter within a matter of days. People reported that Madonna was overjoyed with the news, and that she was preparing a private jet to pick up Mercy from Malawi at some point. Now The Daily Mail is reporting on some of what has been going on behind the scenes in Malawi – and I’m a little shocked. That’s right. Something Madonna has done has shocked me.
It seems that after Madonna lost the adoption hearing back in April, Madge sort of knew that the initial denial wasn’t the end of the story. Not only did she have her lawyers prepare for the appeal, Madonna had Mercy’s care transferred out of the orphanage Mercy was living, and Madge had Mercy put into the care of a woman named Lois Silo, who is the coordinator of Raising Malawi (Madonna’s charity with the sketchy financials). Mercy has been living with Lois and her husband since April, and Madge also had Mercy placed in a private nursery school. In both the Silo home and the nursery school, Mercy was learning English, and taught “Western manners”. That’s not the only Raising Malawi connection, though. The rumor going around is that in the past few months, Madonna has spread around $1.5 million, funneled through Raising Malawi:
[Monday], according to Madonna’s lawyer, the singer or one of her close aides will arrive to collect the girl. But Mercy will have less than three weeks with her new mother before she departs for a seven-week European tour, beginning on July 4.
During the long wait for the court’s decision it appears Madonna left nothing to chance.
Mercy has been hidden away, ready to pack instantly if the adoption went Madonna’s way. The girl, who used to live in an orphanage, was taken to a luxury bungalow on the day in April when Madonna left the country in tears after her first attempt at adoption failed.
The house, belonging to Lois Silo, programme co-ordinator of Madonna’s charity Raising Malawi, is behind blue gates in a discreet suburb of the capital Lilongwe, called Area 47.
According to local sources, Mrs Silo and her husband have been caring for Mercy, helping her to speak English and teaching her Western manners. Each morning she has been driven to the nearby Cherub nursery, a privately run fee-paying school. There she plays with other Malawian children who knew nothing of her special status until they heard on Friday that she was leaving the country.
Her teacher Bridget Kawiya said yesterday: ‘The staff and teachers are amazed. We had no idea this was the girl who Madonna wanted. She was registered under a different name and we knew her as Chifundo Moyo.’
Mercy went to school most days with her hair in bunches, decorated with colourful ribbons. Her favourite school-bag was bright pink with a Barbie motif. Classes ended before noon and she would be taken home again where a nanny or cook made lunch for her before an afternoon nap, some children’s TV, then playtime, supper and an early night.
Mercy, a natural chatterbox, would run into school in the mornings to talk to her friends in Chichewa until corrected by teachers who encourage all the children to speak in English.
‘That is important,’ said Mrs Kawiya. ‘English is the official language and you need it to make a good career. We had no idea that Mercy would need it more than the others if she is going to live in New York. At our end-of-term ceremony in July we had planned that Mercy, who is so clever, would introduce herself and others from her group in French. Of course, now that isn’t going to happen. We are sorry to lose her.’
On Friday night a driver picked up Mercy from the Silos’ household and took her to Kumbali Lodge, the guesthouse where Madonna stays when in Malawi. There a Raising Malawi team from America was waiting.
Already familiar with life at the Lodge – she spent three weeks there during the first court hearing in April – Mercy tucked into supper and sought out the staff’s children who had become her friends on a previous visit.
She is expected to be flown by private jet to Johannesburg, then to New York to join Madonna’s daughter Lourdes, 12, son Rocco, eight, and David Banda, three, the Malawian orphan adopted two years ago.
[From The Daily Mail]
I can understand the teaching Mercy English, and it doesn’t sound like Mercy, or any other child, is punished if they don’t speak in English, so I’m giving that a pass. What bothers me is the larger issue – if Madonna lost the initial legal battle to adopt Mercy, how was that she could arrange to have this child – a little girl she had no legal ties to – moved into a private home, make school arrangements, and basically keep the little girl in hiding?
Many of those charities who were initially protesting the adoption are more concerned about Mercy’s transition from Malawian life to Madge’s palaces. Also, a lot of people seem concerned that Madonna will be heading off on tour in less than a month:
In spite of Mercy’s apparent happiness, charities fear she could face problems adapting to her new life.
Maxwell Matewere, of Malawi’s Eye of the Child group, said: ‘It’s hard to say how much damage may have been done to a girl who’s been moved from pillar to post because of one woman’s determination to have her. Her first days were with her schoolgirl mother who then died, and she spent three years in an orphanage.’
‘For the past two months she has been living like no other Malawian child, surrounded by toys and a bewildering array of luxury. We are pleased if she finds happiness in her new life, but we cannot approve of the stress she has already suffered.’
Others have accused Madonna of virtually bribing Malawi’s lawmakers and child protection officers into giving her what she wants by donating a reported £1.5million to the country through Raising Malawi.
But her lawyer Allan Chinula said: ‘It is a total fabrication to say that Madonna poured money into Malawi for the purposes of being able to adopt a child.’
[From The Daily Mail]
Though she doesn’t deserve it, I’m giving Madonna the benefit of the doubt. Surely, she has a good reason to not pick up Mercy herself. Surely she will make arrangements for Mercy while she tours. Surely Madonna will hire some of sort of tutor/translator so Mercy will still be able to communicate in the language she has heard all of her life.
Madonna is shown on 5/25/09. Credit: Fame Pictures