Former Oprah matron not guilty

2010-10-11 18:22

Johannesburg - The former matron of the Oprah Winfrey academy who was accused of sexually assaulting young girls was found not guilty on Monday by the Magistrate's Court in Sebokeng.

"She was found not guilty on all of the charges," said Prosecutor Etienne Venter.

Tiny Virginia Makopo faced 14 charges relating to the indecent assault of six girls and assaulting a colleague. The charges against her included indecent assault, common assault, soliciting a minor to perform an indecent act and verbal abuse.

Winfrey expressed her disappointment at the verdict in a statement on Monday.

"We began this child molestation trial in July 2008. More than two years later, I am profoundly disappointed at the outcome of the trial.

"I will forever be proud of the nine girls who testified with the courage and conviction to be heard.

"Our entire OWLA (Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy) staff is committed to providing a nurturing educational environment so that all of our girls may continue to flourish. And they are indeed thriving," she said.

Winfrey further expressed her appreciation to Venter and his team as well as the SA Police Service for their efforts in seeking justice.

Much of the evidence in the trial came from students who testified behind closed doors because of their age.

Makopo was arrested in November 2007, shortly after Winfrey officially opened the academy for girls from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Venter said the State would not take the matter any further.