Winfrey livid at school abuses

Tebogo Monama

Tebogo Monama

An emotional Oprah Winfrey spoke out for the first time yesterday about the controversy surrounding her prestige academy for girls.

"This is one of the worst things that has ever happened to me," Winfrey told a press conference in Johannesburg by satellite from her Harpo studios in Chicago, US.

The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls at Henley-on-Klip has in the past three weeks been tainted by reports that one of the dorm parents, Virginia Makopo, 27, had sexually abused six pupils.

Makopo appeared in the Sebokeng magistrates' court yesterday. Winfrey said the academy would beef up security checks on its employees.

"We made civil and criminal check-ups when we hired our staff, but it was not that rigorous. I was not in charge of that, but the buck always stops with me."

Winfrey said the principal's contract, which expires in December, would not be renewed.

The girls at the school claim that Mbulelo Mzimane failed to respond to their allegations of abuses.