South African Student Spared Jail Time After Accidentally Spending £50,000

A South African student dodged jail after receiving £850,000 instead of her customary £85 monthly university meal subsidy and squandering £50,000 of it in a 73-day buying spree.


Sibongile Mani, a 32-year-old scholar, relies on assistance to fund her studies. But she couldn’t believe it when a government assistance program sent her 10,000 times too much money.


When the student checked her bank account in South Africa, she discovered she had become an overnight multi-millionaire, with 14 million rands added to her account.


Rather than contacting government officials, the accounting student went on a spending binge.


According to the Mail Online, she ditched her old wardrobe for designer clothes, purchased the latest iPhones for herself and her friends, and swapped her cheap cornrow hairstyle for £200-a-time Peruvian weaves.


But her new lifestyle, in which she blew a small fortune of £666 a day, soon began raising eyebrows.


Mani was caught when she left a till receipt at a supermarket that showed she had more than £800,000 in her bank and was reported to the cops.


She was arrested in 2017 and charged with theft and fraud; in 2022, she was sentenced to 5 years in jail for stealing 818,000 rand (almost £50,000 in 2017).


After being jailed, she wrote on her own blog that she considered it as “miracle money” and a “gift from God,” and that she “didn’t think twice” about spending it.


However, her lawyer, Mr Asanda Pakade, filed an appeal on the grounds that Mani was not a danger to society, had not solicited the money, and was not a candidate for overcrowded jails.


He said that the National Student Financial Aid Scheme had sent her 14 million rand in error and had not realized such a large sum was missing until students contacted them.


Two justices in the East London High Court in Makhanda decided to suspend her 5-year prison term if she did not commit any theft or fraud during that time.


The newlywed mother-of-two was also ordered to perform 14 weeks of community service and undergo counseling, but she was not had to repay the money she had spent.


Mani’s lawyer Mr Pakade said afterwards: ‘She is very relieved and very happy that she does not have to go to prison and is looking to putting all this behind her and starting again.


‘She is putting her life back together after it was shattered, and she is looking forward to beginning over, and she is extremely pleased that the court made the decisions that it did,’ he said.


Mr Samkelo Mqhayi, branch secretary of the South African Students Congress, who reported Mani to the NSFAS at the time, told Herald Live: ‘She was simply suddenly spending that much.


‘Her supermarket receipt, which was leaked, indicated she had 13.6 million rand in her account, and she had been hosting parties for her pals and showered them with gifts without fear,’ according to the report.


A fellow student said at the time: ‘One moment Sibongile was hard-up with no money and struggling and the next she had a lavish lifestyle with seemingly no bottom to her purse.


‘She became very glamorous in expensive dresses with the jewellery and the handbags and we thought she must have won the Lottery but I suppose in a way I guess she had done.


‘The student bar was no longer her place but champagne and whisky clubs were’ she said.

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