Malawian official to assess Madonna over adoption

LILONGWE Mon Aug 27, 2007 11:15am EDT

Madonna holds her adopted son, David Banda, at an orphan care centre run by Raising Malawi, a grassroots initiative by Madonna, in Mphendula Village, about 40 km (25 miles) from the capital Lilongwe April 19, 2007. A Malawian court-appointed official said on Monday he will visit Madonna and her husband in early September to access whether they would be suitable parents for the child they are seeking to adopt. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Madonna holds her adopted son, David Banda, at an orphan care centre run by Raising Malawi, a grassroots initiative by Madonna, in Mphendula Village, about 40 km (25 miles) from the capital Lilongwe April 19, 2007. A Malawian court-appointed official said on Monday he will visit Madonna and her husband in early September to access whether they would be suitable parents for the child they are seeking to adopt.

Credit: Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko

LILONGWE (Reuters) - An official appointed by a Malawi court to assess whether Madonna and her husband would be suitable parents for the child they are seeking to adopt said on Monday he will visit the couple in Britain next month.

"There has been a change of mind by my government minister and she has allowed me to leave for the UK on September 4 and I am expected to spend two weeks," Penstone Kilembe, who had been refused permission to travel to Britain, told Reuters.

Madonna and her husband Guy Ritchie's attempts to adopt David Banda hit a snag earlier this month when the Malawian minister of women and child development refused to grant Kilembe permission to travel to Britain to assess their suitability.

Minister Kate Kainja told a Malawian weekly "we feel Mr. Kilembe personalized the whole issue" and other people could go.

A Malawi newspaper reported Kilembe was prevented from traveling to Britain because he had accepted a plane ticket and money from Madonna without government approval.

Kilembe dismissed the suggestions he asked the pop star for a ticket.

"What we had with the minister was just a misunderstanding and that has been resolved. Madonna herself has been informed about the new proposed dates because she has been looking forward to this so that her adoption process is not hampered," he said.

Rights groups have accused Madonna of using her fame and wealth to circumvent the country's adoption rules, but the singer has insisted she is following the law.

The High Court of Malawi appointed Kilembe to travel to Britain twice and was to have relied on his testimony in ruling whether Madonna should adopt the child in a hearing next year.

Madonna took David Banda from Malawi last October when he was 13-months old after his father, Yohane Banda, had placed him in an orphanage following the death of his wife.

Justin Dzonzi, a child rights lawyer, told Reuters he was happy that the minister had rescinded her decision.

"This is welcome because the earlier decision was not only going to derail the adoption process but it also bordered on contempt of court," Dzonzi said.

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