Have mercy on a father, Madge

Aug 8, 2010 12:00 AM | By BONGANI MTHETHWA 

Malawian dad of Madonna’s adopted child wants to see her

 SAVING UP: James Kambewa hopes to get enough money to visit his daughter in London  ‘I think about her every day. Having a baby is a blessing. So I go through the emotional pain of not living with her every day’ 

The Malawian father of pop star Madonna’s adopted daughter is waiting tables in Durban to save up for a flight to London to see his only child.

If James Kambewa makes it that far, it will be the first time he sets eyes on the five-year-old since her controversial adoption by Madonna about a year ago.

Kambewa moved to South Africa from his home town of Kasungu last September, missing a rare chance to see Mercy in the flesh when the 52-year-old singer and her daughter visited Malawi in April to set up a £10-million academy for girls.

In an interview with the Sunday Times this week, an emotional Kambewa recalled his heartbreak at never having met “my baby”.

“As a father, I think about her every day. Having a baby is a blessing. So I go through the emotional pain of not living with her every day,” he said.

But the shy 26-year-old, who has accepted he will never gain custody of his daughter, admitted he had no idea how to go about securing a meeting with Madonna and his child.

“I would like to make peace with Madonna so I can meet my baby,” he said.

“I need someone to advise on me how to go about doing that. From the time I learnt that my daughter was still alive, I’ve been longing for a chance to meet her.”

He said he had initially opposed his daughter’s adoption by the singer because he wanted her to grow up as a Malawian and be raised according to his own culture.

“Sadly, she can’t learn any of that now, but I would still like her to be raised in a good way that any child is supposed to be raised,” he said.

Kambewa has only seen his daughter on TV and in newspapers. He does, however, have six pictures of her taken when she was three, sent to him by a friend. He would not elaborate on how his friend had obtained those photos.

Mercy’s mum, who was 14 when she fell pregnant, died while giving birth to her, and Kambewa said he believed that his daughter had died with her.

He said he discovered later, through a friend, that Mercy was alive and at an orphanage.

He declined to talk about circumstances around the discovery of his child, except to say: “It’s a very long story and I don’t want to talk about that.”

Relatives of Mercy’s mother, who were angered that Kambewa had shirked his responsibility as a father, reportedly backed Madonna’s adoption bid.

Kambewa had tried unsuccessfully to convince the Malawian authorities that he was the biological father of the child.

Despite having offered to go for a DNA test to prove paternity, as well as his willingness to appear in court, his efforts were fruitless.

Madonna had met Mercy at a Malawi orphanage in 2006 – the same year she adopted another Malawian child, David Banda, from another orphanage.

Malawian law prohibits foreigners from adopting unless they have been resident in the country for at least 18 months. However, the country’s supreme court overturned a lower court ruling barring Madonna from adopting Mercy and decided that the singer’s charity work in the country made her worthy of adopting a child from there without being a permanent resident.

Madonna’s charity, Raising Malawi, helps feed, educate and provide healthcare for more than a million orphans.

But human rights groups accused the government of giving the singer special treatment and said the case would encourage foreigners to adopt Malawian children at will.

“I would appreciate if Madonna could even send me pictures of how she looks like now as I don’t get any pleasure of being with her. It’s emotionally painful for me as a father,” he said.

“I’m very happy that Madonna is taking care of her. But as a parent, from the moment I heard that she was still alive, I wanted to meet with her and I’m hopeful that I’ll meet her one day.”