Malawi court rebuffs Madonna

Madonna’s application to have her charity – Raising Malawi Inc (RMI) – removed in a case in which her former employees have taken her to court, has been dismissed by a Malawian court. Judge Jack Nriva ruled that it would be premature to remove Raising Malawi Inc from the case because several issues of employee, employer relationship, economic realities and group liability have been raised. “ I believe the application to remove RMI as party herein ought to be, and is hereby dismissed. In the glimpse of what has transpired in the affidavit evidence, I believe it would be less prejudicial to RMI if they are maintained as party to the proceedings,” said the judge. The ruling means that the decision by eight of her former employees

Madonna in Malawi

who dragged her to court for unfair labour practices and non payment of terminal benefits, can now proceed with the litigation against her. Madonna through her Malawian lawyer Davis Njobvu had asked the court to strike out RMI from proceedings saying it is a registered trust in the United States and that it only provided funds to Raising Malawi Academy for Girls (RMAG)  for the construction of the girls’ academy which it later abandoned. Njobvu told the court that there were no contracts signed between the ex- employees and RMI saying they signed their contracts with RMAG. But the judge said the matters of RMAG and RMI were interrelated and it is difficult to resolve the matters by simple affidavit evidence. “In my view, I think it would be premature to bar the applicants from suing RMI… It would actually be hasty and, in my view, improper to remove RMI from the proceedings based on affidavit evidence when, yet, the applicants are claiming propinquity between themselves and the said RMI,” said Nriva.“At the end of the day, all these issues are factual matters which are related to the whole issue. Removing a party at this juncture may yield some unjust result, if for example, it is established that the applicants were actually engaged by RMI,”said the Judge. The court heard that Madonna collected a total of US$18 million (approximately K2.9 billion) from well wishers and good Samaritans in the USA for the construction of the academy in Malawi but only remitted US$850,000 (about K128 million) before abandoning the project.