The biological father of 13-month-old "Baby David" said he was misled into agreeing to give up his son for adoption by American pop diva Madonna, injecting new controversy and confusion into the adoption saga.
Yohane Banda said that authorities had not made it clear to him that he was giving up his only son "for good" when he signed adoption papers earlier this month, clearing the way for a Malawian judge to grant the celebrity couple a "temporary order" to take the baby away.
"Our understanding was that they (Madonna and British filmmaker husband Guy Ritchie) would educate and take care of our son, just as they were doing at the orphanage," the 32-year-old illiterate peasant farmer told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Sunday from Lipunga Village, where he ekes out a living growing onions and tomatoes.
Until now, Banda has defended his move as in the best interests of his motherless son and criticized local charities who have started legal proceedings to challenge the adoption.
Banda said his understanding was that "when David grows up he will return back home to his village." He said the Director of Child Welfare Services, Penston Kilembe, and the retired pastor who heads the Home of Hope orphanage, where David spent most of his life, never told him that "adoption" meant David would cease to be his son.
"If we were told that she wants to take the baby as her own, we could not have consented because I see no reason why I should give away my son," he said.
Banda left his son with the orphanage after his wife died shortly after childbirth — a relatively frequent occurrence in the impoverished African nation, which suffers from high rates of maternal and infant mortality. He lost two children in infancy to malaria.
Banda said that because he could not read, he had no idea of the significance of the adoption papers he signed in the High Court in the capital, Lilongwe.
"Mr. Kilembe and the pastor explained to me that Madonna would take care of my son; I am just realizing now the meaning of adoption," he said, claiming that he has no copies of documents pertaining to the adoption. "All the documents are with Mr. Kilembe," he said.
Kilembe refused to comment on Sunday, saying he will talk only from his office on Monday.
Madonna's Malawian lawyer, Alan Chinula, refused to comment Sunday, saying his clients have not given him any fresh instructions. He insisted, however, that the singer followed all the procedures to adopt Baby David.
Critics of the adoption disagree. The Human Rights Consultative Committee, representing 67 human rights groups, has filed a court case to challenge the adoption, saying that laws concerning the residency of the prospective parents were flouted and that it may set a precedent for human trafficking.
Banda's claims were corroborated by Banda's cousin, Wiseman Zimba, and mother, Asineti Mwale.
"Our understanding as a family is that David is still part and parcel of our clan," said Zimba. "After the good woman nurtures and educates him, he will return back."
Mwale said, "I look forward to telling my grandson how destitute he was after losing his mum at the tender age of three weeks, how we surrendered him to the orphanage and how this good woman took him away."
However, the family insisted that it did not want David to return to the orphanage.
"We are still thankful Madonna has rescued him from poverty and disease; we pray for the good Lord to keep blessing her for her benevolence," said Banda.
Madonna, who came to Malawi on Oct. 4 with Ritchie, spent eight days visiting the six orphanages she is funding through her Raising Malawi charity. She is also establishing her own Consol Homes to help up to 4,000 orphans and underprivileged children in Mphandula Village, 30 miles outside the capital, Lilongwe.