The Malawian man who gave his son up to pop superstar Madonna has spoken about the decision he made in letting him go.
Yohane Banda said poverty forced him to put his son David in the orphanage where Madonna would later find him and start the ongoing adoption process.
Mr Banda said David’s mother died when his son was just a month old. He believed that he could not care for him alone and that placing him in an orphanage was his “surest” chance to survive.
“After losing two sons, I really wanted David to survive,” Mr Banda said.
Two children born earlier had died in childbirth, as did a third baby his second wife bore after David, who is three in September, was sent to the orphanage.
Mr Banda, a peasant farmer who earns a living growing maize, tomatoes and potatoes, said he used to ride a bicycle to visit his son at the orphanage. When he wasn’t able to go, David’s grandmother would visit.
“It isn’t true that we abandoned him,” Mr Banda said in Chichewa.
Mr Banda said he had originally planned to bring David home when he was old enough to eat solid food. Instead, the pastor who runs the orphanage came to him some two years ago to say a “rich white woman” was interested in adopting David.
“We sat down as a family to consider it. After banging our heads together we thought this was good for David so we readily agreed,” he said.
Mr Banda said that when he met the singer and her husband in a Lilongwe court in 2006, when a judge gave the celebrity couple temporary custody of David, he was promised he would be seeing his son occasionally.
The judge is expected to rule on Madonna’s adoption request later this month. Last month, two reports by a Malawian child welfare officer who had visited David in London were released, recounting that David has “bonded well” with Madonna’s family, and recommending the adoption be approved.
Madonna has produced and narrated a documentary, I Am Because We Are, about poverty and disease devastating the lives of Malawi’s children, and urges people to volunteer.
At the premiere at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival last month, an audience member asked the pop diva about the difficulty of adopting children from Malawi.
“It’s a new concept, the concept of adoption, consequently it’s very, very time-consuming,” she said. “I guess if you really want to do it you have to be willing to walk through the fire.”
The film shows Madonna providing food, education and shelter for Malawian children through her Raising Malawi organisation, and the first time she met David while setting up her charity projects here.