Wednesday, May. 25, 2011

Scandal in South Africa

When the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls opened in Johannesburg in 2007, Nelson Mandela, Tina Turner, Sydney Poitier, Spike Lee and Oprah herself attended a lavish ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the landmark boarding school, founded with $40 million of Oprah's money. But less than a year later, six of the 152 students who had been personally selected by Oprah to attend the institution came forward to accuse dorm matron Virginia Tiny Makgobo of sexual and physical abuse. (Makgobo pleaded not guilty; her trial was ongoing.) "It has shaken me to my core," Winfrey said of returning to South Africa with a team of private detectives to investigate the allegations and personally speak with the girls. "This has been one of the most devastating, if not the most devastating, experiences of my life." But as one Johannesburg newspaper observed, "The abuse scandal that has rocked Oprah Winfrey's South African school for girls does not reflect badly on the famous talk-show host — it reflects badly on this nation."