Relations between Madonna and Malawi have soured after she was accused of "bullying officials" and exaggerating the extent of her charity work in the south-east African nation.
The rift came to a head on Saturday night after the singer's VIP status was withdrawn and she was forced to queue up with regular passengers and undergo a body search at Malawi's Kamuzu International Airport.
Madonna, who has adopted two children from Malawi and helped fund as many as ten schools, was initially treated with reverence. But during her most recent visit the country's education minister accused her of "exaggerating" the extent of her charitable work, the Daily Telegraph reports. He said she was building "classrooms", not entire schools as her charity has claimed.
Madonna's request for an audience with Malawi's president Joyce Banda was also ignored during the visit that began on 1 April. The singer's spokesman claimed Banda had a "grudge" against her because Banda's sister, Anjimile Oponyo, was sacked as the head of her charitable foundation for alleged theft. Oponyo has denied the allegations.
The rift came to a head on Saturday night when Madonna and her four children arrived at Kamuzu International Airport at the end of their visit. Instead of being ushered into a private waiting room and offered a limousine to drive them to their private jet – the usual procedure for VIP passengers – the family and its entourage were forced to queue in the airport terminal with other passengers and were "frisked" by security staff. According to the BBC, the singer made it clear to officials she was "angered" by the treatment.
But Madonna's irritation at the withdrawal of her VIP status was met with a stern statement from Banda yesterday. She accused the star of wanting Malawi "to be forever chained to the obligation of gratitude".
Madonna, said Banda, was "a musician who desperately thinks she must generate recognition by bullying state officials instead of playing decent music on the stage".
Madonna has not responded to Banda's statement.