Saturday, November 10, 2007
Washington (ANI): The former headmistress of Oprah Winfrey's South African all-girls academy has denied being aware of the alleged sexual abuse claims in the school. On Nov 5, Winfrey announced that Nomvuyo Mzamane's contract would not be renewed, signifying that school officials had ignored complaints from the girls and tried to keep allegations of abuse from her. However, she has claimed that she had no prior knowledge of the ongoing abuse in the school premises, insisting there was no "cover-up".
Mzamane slammed the press after various reports claimed that she knew a staff member had molested a number of the young pupils. "Contrary to reports, I had no knowledge of abuse. I did not and would never participate in any such cover-up," e!online quoted Mzamane, as saying in a statement issued through her U.S.-based lawyer, Timothy McGown. She also said that she was "shocked" and "saddened" by the revelations and would have done something about it had she known."
“As the head of the academy, my track record had been of one who acted decisively and in the best interests of the child where there was event a hint of inappropriate speech or action on campus," she added. Former dorm matron Virginia Mokgobo, 27, was arrested on 29 October on numerous charges, including assault, indecent assault and soliciting underage girls to perform indecent acts, after a local newspaper article brought attention to the matter in October.
A total of 15 victims have come forward. Mokgobo has been bailed pending further investigation. Winfrey, who was a victim of child abuse herself, promised an overhaul of the school and said she had apologized to parents. Winfrey opened her Leadership Academy for Girls outside Johannesburg on Jan. 2, with celebrities including Tina Turner and Spike Lee in attendance, as well as former President Nelson Mandela.