Madonna denies access to Mercy

Man claiming to be dad will not see adopted girl
Aug 29, 2010 12:00 AM | By BONGANI MTHETHWA

Pop star Madonna will not allow the Malawian man claiming to be the father of her adopted daughter, Mercy, access to the child.

CHARITY: Madonna and Mercy during a bricklaying ceremony at the site of the singer’s Raising Malawi Girls Academy Picture: REUTERS

‘The extended family members had no knowledge of a father. The village leadership had no knowledge of a father’

This week the singer, who recently celebrated her 52nd birthday at an exclusive London hotel, suggested to the Sunday Times that 26-year-old James Kambewa was at worst a rapist, at best an imposter.

Five-year-old Mercy was placed with Madonna following a controversial adoption last year. Her mother, a 14-year-old Malawian girl, had died after giving birth in Kavithiwa Village in 2006.

The Sunday Times reported earlier this month that Kambewa, who claims he is Mercy’s biological father, now lives in Durban and works as a waiter.

Although he has given up ever getting her back, he said he was desperate to meet Mercy. He had hoped the superstar would pave the way.

But in a response through her spokesman on Friday, Madonna said that Mercy’s biological mother had been raped and abandoned and no formal paternity claim had ever been made.

She said the father was unknown and that Malawian authorities had advised her not to deal with anyone claiming to be the father.

Kambewa said he had had a relationship with the teenager – the legal age of consent in Malawi is 14 – when he was 22.

He claims that until the adoption furore broke, he had not known the child had survived the birth or had been placed in an orphanage.

“Madonna can say whatever she wants to say, but one day God will fulfil his purpose for me,” he said this week. He declined to comment further.

Madonna’s spokesman, Barbara Charone, said that in three years nobody had made a claim to be the father.

“The extended family members had no knowledge of a father. The village leadership had no knowledge of a father … the mother was raped and left,” said Charone.

She claimed Kambewa had made his paternity claim to a British journalist and nobody else.

“There was a three-week window between the oral arguments (in court) and the decision, when the man could have made his claim. Again nothing.

“Moreover, the Ministry of Gender has recommended that it would be in the child’s best interest not to engage with anyone claiming to be a parent or guardian,” Charone said.

A week ago, another spokesman told the Sunday Times that Malawian authorities had investigated Kambewa’s claim and had ruled he was not the father.

Madonna’s initial bid to adopt Mercy was turned down by a lower court because she had not satisfied a requirement that prospective parents be resident in the country for 18 to 24 months. In her ruling, Judge Esme Chombo said the issue of residence was “the very bedrock of protection that our children need; it must therefore not be tampered with.”

However, the country’s supreme court overturned her ruling, saying Madonna’s charity work in the country made her worthy of adopting a child.

Kambewa reportedly contacted authorities immediately after Madonna’s first bid to adopt Mercy. By the time the supreme court ruled in Madonna’s favour on June 12 last year, Kambewa’s claims had received extensive coverage in the British and local media.