By Ben Leach
Published: 8:10AM BST 28 Jun 2009
Madonna’s adopted daughter Mercy was to be returned to family, grandmother claims
Mercy, the Malawian child adopted by Madonna, was to be returned to her family from the orphanage she was living in, her grandmother has claimed.
Madonna adopted Mercy after a court in Malawi ruled she could adopt the four year old Photo: REUTERS
Lucy Chekechiwa, the maternal grandmother of Chifundo “Mercy” James, said that the family never agreed to put the four-year-old up for adoption on a permanent basis.
She said she had long fought to keep Mercy, whom the southern African country’s highest court ruled that Madonna could adopt earlier this month, and that she had only recently given up her long battle to keep her.
She said: “The initial agreement was that Mercy was to be kept in the orphanage for six years. After six years Mercy was supposed to be brought back here and then I would have taken care of her.
“At first I didn’t want her to go but as a family we had to sit down and reach an agreement and we agreed that Mercy should go.
“The men insisted that Mercy be adopted and I won’t resist anymore. I still love Mercy. She is my dearest.”
Speaking in a Channel 4 documentary – Madonna and Mercy: What Really Happened – to be broadcast on Monday, Miss Chekechiwa added that she had fought against the adoption for three years but had finally agreed to let Mercy go.
She said that Madonna came across Mercy at an orphanage during her first visit to Malawi in 2006 with her then husband, Guy Ritchie, and decided that Mercy was “the one”.
However, Miss Chekechiwa refused to let the little girl go at that stage, so Madonna instead returned home with David Banda, whose family had not raised such strong objections.
Miss Chekechiwa’s daughter, Mwandida, was Mercy’s mother. She fell pregnant aged 14 to an older student at school, but died from complications of childbirth days after Mercy was born.
Mercy’s father, James Kambewa, claims he was told that Mercy too had died and only learned the truth after being tracked down by journalists in April. He now says he wants his daughter back.
He told Channel 4: “I am not supporting the adoption because I am still alive. I don’t see any justification why the girl should be adopted.
“But on the other hand when I learnt that my daughter is still alive I was very happy and I think I still need to raise her.
“It’s true that a child needs both parents but that doesn’t stop me from taking care of Mercy. I know I’m capable. I can do that.”
The programme also investigates the links between the adoption and the Kabbalah-sponsored Raising Malawi charity, whose co-founder is Michael Berg, the co-director of the Kabbalah Centre.