August 13, 2008
While his brother lives in the lap of luxury with new 'mum' Madonna, this child lives in grinding poverty in Malawi. As the singer plans her second African adoption, we reveal the stark life of Dingiswayo Banda ... and wonder what David will feel when he one day understands the chasm between them
She met the little girl at an orphanage in Malawi and knew straight away she wanted to take her home with her.
Now officials have confirmed that nothing but red tape is left between Madonna and the adoption of her second child from Malawi, three-year-old Mercy James.
When she arrives in Britain, Mercy, like David Banda, who Madonna adopted in 2006, will be splendidly spoiled.
Private jets and grand residences, the townhouse in Marylebone, the country pile in Wiltshire, swish properties in New York and Los Angeles.
The contrast to the life she will have left in Malawi could not be more stark.
The Mail discovered just how stark the differences will be when we visited Lipunga, the birthplace of David Banda, this week.
The village stands on a flat plain deep in the Malawian hinterland, enclosed on two sides by mountains.
By day, the mellow winter sun imbues a soft, hazy glow over the mud huts; by night, the village takes on a different character, the pitch-black and silence broken only by the flickering of a few paraffin lamps.
Three weeks ago, the village celebrated the safe arrival of a young son born to Yohane Banda and his wife Flora, who live in one of the huts with Flora's three-year-old daughter, Tiyamike, from her previous marriage.
Yohane is David Banda's father. Dingiswayo Banda, the new baby, is David's half-brother. He's doing well and Yohane prays every day that he will continue to do so, for here in Lipunga a child's survival is by no means a given.
At 34, Yohane has already lost three children. The most recent was last September, when Flora gave birth to a son who died within hours. Before that, Yohane's two sons from his marriage to his first wife died in infancy.
David's 28-year-old mother, Marita, died from childbirth complications five days after he was born. Unable to cope with the baby on his own, Yohane placed David at an orphanage in Mchinji when he was two months old.
Dingiswayo's arrival is a blessing, then. 'It was a normal birth,' says Yohane. 'Dingiswayo is a beautiful and placid baby.'
But the child faces a life of poverty, raised by a father who grows vegetables and can only hope to earn 26 a year. About what Madonna, who is worth an estimated 250million, might give as a tip after a meal at celebrity haunt San Lorenzo in Knightsbridge, where she recently took David for dinner.
Yohane is so poor that he had to take Tiyamike out of nursery because he was unable to afford the monthly fee of 150 kwachas - 53p.
He is a proud man who refuses to ask Madonna for any financial support, but quietly makes the point that the hugely wealthy singer has not yet got round to sending any money to her adopted son's family. 'She hasn't offered to support me. It would be nice, of course, but I can't force her.'
Dingiswayo's struggle will be to survive, but David - and now Mercy, when she comes here - will have to face the challenge of growing up under the glare of the paparazzi's flashbulbs, denied anonymity, but not through choice like their perennially attentionseeking new mother.
How will David feel when he learns about the little brother he has who lives in a mud hut and can afford to eat only nsima, a type of gruel made out of maize flour and cooked on a log fire?
His adoptive mother, on the other hand, has her own chefs who prepare freshly cooked macrobiotic fare - no wheat, dairy or sugar. The Bandas couldn't begin to comprehend such nit-picking food faddism.
Will he feel guilt? Confusion? One thing he can't feel is indifference.
Even now, almost two years since Madonna took him back to Britain, David has a sorrowful look in his eyes, as if somewhere inside him he has retained a residual memory of his difficult early months in Malawi.