Arrest made in abuse case at Oprah Winfrey school in South Africa

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The Independent Online

A woman who worked at the school US talk show host Oprah Winfrey opened for disadvantaged South African girls has been arrested in connection with charges of abuse and sexual assault at the school, police said Friday.

Winfrey's spokespeople did not immediately comment, but scheduled a press conference Monday that Winfrey was expected to address via satellite.

Police spokesman Superintendent Lungelo Dlamini said the 27-year-old former dormitory matron was arrested on Thursday.

"Several charges including alleged assault, indecent assault, crimen injuria and soliciting under age girls to perform indecent acts are being investigated against her," Dlamini said.

At least seven victims had submitted statements, he said.

The woman was being held by police and was expected to appear in a magistrate's court in a town south of Johannesburg on Monday, he said.

The school had announced Oct. 17 that a dormitory matron had been suspended amid allegations of serious misconduct.

In a statement last month, Winfrey said, "Nothing is more serious or devastating to me than an allegation of misconduct by an adult against any girl at the academy."

John Samuel, the school's chief executive office, said then that an internal inquiry had been initiated "based on one serious claim of misconduct involving a dormitory parent." He said the accused person had been removed from the campus and that he had taken "immediate action to ensure the safety and well-being of the academy's learners."

Detectives from the US and South Africa had been hired to assist with the inquiry. The headmistress was also given paid leave to ensure an impartial investigation, the school said.

The US$40 million school opened in January with ceremony attended by former President Nelson Mandela, movie maker Spike Lee, and pop stars Mariah Carey and Tina Turner.