Oprah with girls from her Leadership Academy
Oprah Winfrey settles lawsuit
Even the doyenne of daytime television and a world renowned businesswoman and philanthropist is not immune from lawsuits.
It could be that the United States of America has earned the dubious title of the most litigious country in the world and one of the most well-known and respected citizens is among those who is experiencing the litigious nature of her country. In an effort not to prolong the legal battle which could distract her from work, Oprah Winfrey has settled a defamation lawsuit that was filed by a headmistress of the girls school she founded and funded in South Africa.
According to the lawyers, Winfrey had accused the former headmistress, Nomvuyo Mzamane of performing poorly at her girls school where some students claimed they were abused. Because the lawsuit was settled, the truth of the matter may never come to light. However, the South African culture views a settlement differently than Americans, and though it may end legally, several unanswered questions may still remain in South Africa.
The trial was scheduled to begin next week and the facts notwithstanding, posed many logistical and time-consuming difficulties and hardships since many school girls would have had to testify. Winfrey, as the named defendant, attending trial daily would have had to rearrange her Chicago-based TV talk show, a staple of American daily life.
In the U.S., it was in the best interest of all parties to come to a quick resolution. But had the matter been tried in South Africa, “legal” truth may have won over a quick resolution. (The dorm matron, Tiny Virginia Makopo, had already pleaded not guilty to 14 charges).
Mzamane claimed that Winfrey had made some unsavory remarks in reference to sex-abuse allegation at the school in 2007. She further alleged that because of those remarks, she experienced tremendous hardships and great inconvenience in gaining employment after she left the school, because of Winfrey’s remarks, which were tantamount to defamation of her name and character.
The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls was Winfrey’s dream to give South African girls, who were relegated to a life of poverty and hopelessness, an alternative lifestyle. With the “blessings” and counsel of former president, Nelson Mandela, Winfrey had considered – and still do – the school an oasis of opportunity in a desert of hopelessness. She dreamt of building a first-class school to nurture, educate and turn gifted South African girls from impoverished backgrounds into the country’s future leaders. Her dream became a reality in 2007, when The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls – South Africa opened its doors. The school now holds about 330 girls.