Funding for university or college can be extremely difficult to come by. Going through student loan centers, banks, and just saving up all take time and effort. Often times, students need a little extra help to make it through the year.
Sibongile Mani, an accounting student, normally received $108 from her university but something happened this year that changed her life.
She got $1,080,000 instead.
Mani, who studies at Walter Sisulu University in South Africa was shocked to find the staggering amount in her bank account, but she rolled with it. Over a course of 73 days, Mani lived her life like a queen. Friends noticed her basic hairstyle was replaced with $230 Peruvian weaves, her outfits all became designer, and the shopping didn't stop.
Mani even began spending the fortune on her friends, buying them all expensive items, throwing them parties, and attending wild parties across the country. Suspicions began to grow when an ATM receipt was found and leaked online, showing her incredibly high balance.
But what finally tipped everyone off to Mani's new, expensive lifestyle?
Eventually, Samkelo Mqhayi, deputy branch secretary of the South African Students Congress (SASCO), saw the receipt and put two and two together.
“She threw surprise birthday parties for her friends and showered them with expensive gifts and flew them to events where she bought the best seats," Mqhayi said. “When the receipt was leaked showing a balance of R13.6-million ($1,050,000) in her account I called NSFAS and they checked their records and confirmed that the initial amount was R14-million ($1,080,000).”
Spending an average of $860 a day, Mani managed to use $65,000 of the money mistakenly given to her. Other students also took notice of Mani's luxurious life.
“She went from a hard up, humdrum run-of-the-mill student to one who was leading a lavish lifestyle and seemed to have no bottom to her purse and lived the high life," one said. “She became very glamorous in beautiful dresses with all the accessories and we thought she must have won the Lottery. She must have thought she had won it too when she got that cash!”.
As for SASCO, they seem to be blaming Mani for spending the money.
“We are shocked. Not so long ago we were protesting for thousands of students who were left without funding due to fund shortages," branch chairman Zolile Zamisa. "Yet she was living a lavish lifestyle hosting birthday parties for her friends at up-market champagne clubs and other expensive hangouts. This cannot be allowed to happen again”.
It should be noted that the university confirmed that despite the accidental deposit, no students lost out on funding because of this error. One student just got way more than she was expecting.
Mani doesn't believe she's at fault here, though.
#NSFAS it wasn't a mistake. How do you mistake R1400 for R14 million?— Sibongile Money (@SibongileMani) August 30, 2017
"[I think] i should tell my own story. I received my stipend on Thursday [and] did not pay much attention to it until the weekend that's when i noticed the large figure. On that Sunday I received a call from faculty at WSU [and] was told to meet them at Vincent Park Monday morning. I can't name the faculty members I met with as I've been told to keep those details until I'm official probed [sic]. When we met that Monday i was informed to hold onto the money [and] not tell anyone as i would be in trouble too. I was told they had a friend in financial aid they were working with. I went back and called my friend and told her [what] happened. Two days later i was told to keep the money [but] not make it show that I have it. Whatever I spend would be mine the remainder be withdrawn end of year when uni closes and put into another account and moved. That was when the spending began."
Despite Mani claiming it was all the student loan center's fault, she is being told to repay the money and is now a criminal suspect.
Intellimali chief executive Michael Ansell said: “Legal action will be taken against the student. A forensic investigator had been appointed.”
#NSFAS as of yesterday I was told I'll b facing legal action. Two of the 9 girls have since blocked me on WhatsApp. Asanda & Noxolo— Sibongile Money (@SibongileMani) August 30, 2017
Legal experts say it's extremely possible that Mani is charged with theft, which in this amount could result in jail time.
The trial against Walter Sisulu University student Sibongile Mani‚ charged with theft of R14m‚ has been postponed.
Her lawyer‚ Asanda Pakade‚ told magistrate Nomthandazo Vabaza on Thursday that he needed an extended time to finalise pre-trial engagements with state prosecutor Advocate Luthando Makoyi. In the packed East London regional courtroom three‚ Vabaza said: "In order to afford the defence time to make representations and further requests from the state‚ the case is postponed."
Mani is currently out on a warning.
Do you think the student was at fault here, or the financial aid office?