Oprah "cleans house" at SAfrica school in abuse case

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JOHANNESBURG, Nov 5 (Reuters) US television magnate Oprah Winfrey said today she was ''cleaning house'' at her all-girl academy in South Africa after a dormitory matron was charged with abusing students at the facility.

Describing the charges -- including soliciting under-age girls to perform indecent acts -- as one of the most devastating experiences in her life, the billionaire philanthropist said she had not renewed the head mistress's contract.

''We are removing the dorm parents, and as I have said to the girls, (we are) cleaning house from top to bottom,'' she said in video news conference from Chicago.

''It has shaken me to my core.'' Former dormitory matron Virginia Mokgobo, 27, was arrested on Thursday on charges including assault, indecent assault and soliciting under-age girls to perform indecent acts.

She was freed on 458 dollars bail today after a brief court appearance and left the Sebokeng magistrate court, south of Johannesburg with a blanket over her head. The court postponed the case to December 13 to allow for more investigations.

Winfrey praised students who came forward to report the alleged abuse as exhibiting the kind of leadership qualities she hoped to foster in the school.

''My experience with child predators is that no one ever, ever abuses just one child,'' Winfrey said.

Oprah's 40 million dollars academy has been dogged by controversy since it opened in January with a launch attended by singers Mariah Carey and Tina Turner, actor Sydney Poitier and filmmaker Spike Lee.

In March, some parents complained the school was too strict and its restrictions on visits, phone calls and email contact were comparable to rules in prisons.

Then in May, some parents complained their children were not allowed junk food and, when they visited the school, they had to go through a security gate.

Reuters NC DB2020

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