A South African university student has been sentenced to five years’ direct imprisonment for the theft of National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funds.
Sibongile Mani, a Walter Sisulu University (WSU) student, was found guilty of stealing R818 000 by East London Regional Court Magistrate Twanette Olivier.
NSFAS accidentally transferred R14 million into Mani’s account when she was only entitled to an R1 400 monthly allowance for food.
The funds were paid into Mani’s account in June 2017 by Intellimali, a Cape Town-based company responsible for distributing NSFAS funds to students.
Mani was accused of failing to report when R14 million was credited to her account erroneously.
Instead, she embarked on a spending spree, and in total, she spent R818 000 of the R14 million.
The former student activist allegedly spent the money on prohibited items, including alcohol, cigarettes, electrical appliances, bedding, toys and gift cards.
In handing down the sentence on Wednesday, Olivier said the court was of the view that a suspended sentence was totally inappropriate. Said, Olivier:
You, and only yourself, made that decision on 1 June 2017, you did so repeatedly, for 73 consecutive days, numerous times per day.
You were rushing against time to spend the maximum amount before it’s spoilt or brought to [an end]. Those were conscious decisions you took every day, not the court.
Mani allegedly spent more than R800 000 in 73 days. Between 1 June, when the money landed in her account, to 13 August, when NSFAS found out about the error, she had spent an average of R11 000 per day.
She was arrested in May 2018 by the Serious Commercial Crime Unit of the Hawks after IntelliMali opened a case of theft.
Mani will be eligible for parole after serving one-third of the five-year sentence.