Madonna has won a dispute over the plot earmarked for her Malawi school, meaning villagers have been told to move from their homes.
In a land dispute pitting the singer against African villagers, Malawi’s government sided with Madonna who pumped millions into the impoverished southern African country and adopted two of its children.
Villagers were refusing to move from a plot of land near the capital, Lilongwe, where Madonna wants to build a 15 million US dollar school for girls.
The government, however, said it had originally planned to develop the plot, and only allowed the villagers to live there until a project was identified.
Lilongwe District Commissioner Charles Kalemba, accompanied by other government officials and representatives from Madonna’s Raising Malawi charity, met about 200 villagers and told them they would have to move. The villagers were offered other government land.
“Government allowed you to occupy this land because there was no project yet. But now that Madonna wants to build you a school you have to give way,” Mr Kalemba told the villagers. “You are lucky that Madonna has compensated you for your houses, gardens and trees.”
Anjimile Mtila-Oponyo, who will be principal of Madonna’s school, said the singer paid the villagers more than 16 million kwacha (about 115,000 US dollars) to compensate them for their houses – mostly mud-and-thatch structures – and improvements such as gardens and trees.
One villager said the 1,500 US dollars in compensation he received from Madonna for mango trees and three homes was not enough. He said his family had been living on his seven-acre plot for three generations.