August 1, 2008 / 3:18 PM / 10 years ago

South Africa court delays trial of ex-Oprah school matron

SEBOKENG, South Africa (Reuters) - A South African court on Friday postponed until October the trial of a former dormitory matron of U.S. talk show host Oprah Winfrey’s girls academy charged with abusing minors.

Virginia Makopo, 27, arrested in November and out on bail, is facing charges relating to common assault, harassment and soliciting a minor to perform indecent acts and verbal abuse.

She pleaded not guilty to all the charges in the Sebokeng magistrate court, south of Johannesburg on Tuesday.

Testimony from the minors will be heard in-camera.

After hearing the testimony from one of the complainants, the court postponed the trial to October 22, 24 and 28, when testimony from the remaining five complainants will be heard.

“I‘m a bit sad. We were hoping to finish all six victims by now... We’re going to try and see if we can finish all six of them in those three days,” state prosecutor Etienne Venter said.

The $40 million Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls opened in January 2007.

Winfrey, a billionaire philanthropist who has herself told of suffering sexual abuse as a child, has described the charges against the matron as one of the most devastating experiences of her life.

Reporting by Phakamisa Ndzamela; Writing by Muchena Zigomo

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