| 13.1°C Belfast

Oprah 'shocked' as matron cleared

Close

Tiny Virginia Makopo has been cleared of abusing teenagers at Oprah Winfrey's school for girls in South Africa (AP)

Tiny Virginia Makopo has been cleared of abusing teenagers at Oprah Winfrey's school for girls in South Africa (AP)

Oprah Winfrey attends the opening ceremony of her Leadership Academy for Girls School in 2007 (AP)

Oprah Winfrey attends the opening ceremony of her Leadership Academy for Girls School in 2007 (AP)

/

Tiny Virginia Makopo has been cleared of abusing teenagers at Oprah Winfrey's school for girls in South Africa (AP)

Oprah Winfrey has expressed her shock after a woman accused of abusing teenagers at a school for girls in South Africa set up by the TV host was cleared by a court.

Winfrey said she was "profoundly disappointed" by the trial's outcome and praised the pupils who had given evidence against former school matron Tiny Virginia Makopo.

Prosecutors had accused Ms Makopo of trying to kiss and fondle girls at the school soon after it opened in 2007 outside Johannesburg.

Ms Makopo had also been accused of assaulting one of the teenagers as well as a fellow supervisor.

"The matron who was working at the Oprah Winfrey school was found not guilty on all the sexual assault charges," Mthunzi Mhaga, a spokesman for South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority, said on Monday. "The magistrate was of the view that the state had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that she was guilty. We won't be appealing the judgment."

Winfrey had called the allegations crushing given her own stated history of childhood sexual abuse and promised an overhaul of the school. "I will forever be proud of the nine girls who testified with the courage and conviction to be heard," she said after the acquittal.

The lavish £25.3 million Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, which opened in January 2007, aims to give girls from deprived backgrounds a quality education in a country where schools are struggling to overcome the legacy of apartheid.

Daily Headlines & Evening Telegraph Newsletter

Receive today's headlines directly to your inbox every morning and evening, with our free daily newsletter.

This field is required

"It's unfortunate that this had to happen because what Oprah Winfrey has done for those children in that school - it's really encouraging, it's outstanding, it's really appreciated by South Africans," Mr Mhaga said. "But unfortunately, in the justice systems in every country, it's not about what you know, it's about what you can prove in the court of law."

The school is spread across a 22-acre campus with neat lawns and garden paths decorated with mosaics. It has computer and science labs, a library and a wellness centre. The school is home to about 300 girls from across the country.

In March, Winfrey had settled a defamation lawsuit filed in Philadelphia by the school's former headmistress, Nomvuyo Mzamane, who claimed Winfrey defamed her in remarks made in the wake of the 2007 sex-abuse scandal at the school. Mzamane claimed that she was never told of any sexual abuse but Winfrey's lawyers said in a March pre-trial memo that Ms Mzamane failed to discipline Ms Makopo despite her history of run-ins with pupils and fellow staff.


Top Videos



Privacy