Page last updated at 16:10 GMT, Monday, 30 March 2009 17:10 UK

Madonna adoption plea postponed

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Pop star Madonna in court in Malawi

Madonna must return to court in Malawi on Friday to learn if she can adopt a second child from the African country.

The singer attended an hour-long hearing in Lilongwe to ask for permission to take four-year-old Chifundo James out of the country.

Chifundo has been living in an orphanage since her 18-year-old mother died, shortly after giving birth.

Madonna has said it is "amazing" to be back in the country where she adopted David Banda in 2006.

The girl at the centre of the case, whose name translates into English as Mercy, is in the same orphanage that was home to David, who is now three years old.

Madonna entered the court of Judge Esme Chombo through a back door without answering questions from the media.

The case was heard in private but afterwards a lawyer for the singer confirmed Madonna was seeking an 18 month interim adoption order.

Legal challenge

Madonna is in the country with David Banda and her two biological children, Lourdes and Rocco. She is applying to adopt Mercy as a single parent.

When I told him 'I am your daddy' he looked surprised.
Yohane Banda

The singer has already been criticised by international charities and now a human rights organisation in Malawi is threatening to try and stop the adoption taking place.

Mavuto Bamusi, a campaigner for the Human Rights Consultative Committee, told Reuters: "We are surprised at what's going on. We are contemplating challenging this adoption."

The chairman of the HRCC, Undule Mwakusunguraof accused Madonna of acting "like a bully" saying: "She has the money and the status to use her profile to manipulate, to fast-track the process."

The singer had supporters among the small crowd of onlookers outside the court. E Ngulinga told Associated Press: "We are blessed for what Madonna is doing here."

"That baby is going to have the advantages of going to school and of becoming someone. Here it is very difficult" he added.

Madonna in Malawi in 2007
Madonna's adoption of David Banda was finalised last year

Family reunion

David Banda, Madonna's first Malawian child has been introduced to his father for the first time since the boy left the country in 2006.

Yohane Banda said his son did not recognise him: "He asked me in English who I was and what I do. When I told him 'I am your daddy' he looked surprised."

The two spoke through a translator as David does not speak the local language, Chichewa, and Mr Banda speaks no English.

The father spoke to Madonna about his son's schooling and described the singer as a "sweet lady".

David was left at an orphanage after his mother died. His father said: "It's amazing how David has grown; I can't believe he is the same small and sickly baby we left at Home of Hope."

Mr Banda, who is now remarried and has a young son noted: "David still resembles me but he looks very much like his half brother Dingiswayo.

"I can't wait to see the two brothers reunite," he added.

In 2006, critics accused the Malawian government of sidestepping laws banning foreign adoptions in order to allow the celebrity to take David Banda home with her.

'Role model'

After the adoption was legalised in 2008, Madonna said the difficulties had arisen because "this adoption essentially was the beginning of the creation of adoption laws in Malawi".

Madonna
Madonna has faced criticism in the past for adopting from Malawi

She hoped it would make it easier for others to adopt from the country and explained: "I am the template or the role model, so to speak, for future adoptions."

Madonna's divorce from film director Guy Ritchie was finalised in November.

Malawi does not, as a rule, approve adoptions for single or divorced people, but the official at the country's welfare department said that each case was considered on merit.

Madonna has also established a charity, Raising Malawi, which aims to provide accommodation, food, education and other support to orphans in the country.


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