A student was mistakenly given almost €1 million instead of her usual €97 monthly university food grant – and blew €57,000 of it in under three months.
Sibongile Mani, 32, who had to rely on benefits to pay for her to study, could not believe her eyes when a government aid scheme sent her 10,000 times more money than she was entitled to.
The South African student suddenly became a millionaire when she woke up one morning with 14 million South African rand in her account – or the equivalent of €970,000. Sibongile soon went on a huge shopping spree and ditched her old wardrobe for designer clothes, as well as purchasing the latest iPhone and getting an expensive weave, the Mirror reports.
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The Walter Sisulu University student splashed out on €115 bottles of scotch at swanky venues where she partied over several nights and spent more than €680 a day. It wasn’t until she accidentally left a bank receipt behind at a supermarket that she was busted. The receipt showed she had more than the equivalent of €918,984 in her bank and she was reported to the police.
She was arrested in 2017 and charged with theft and fraud, before being sentenced last year to five years in prison. After being sentenced she wrote on her personal blog that she saw it as “miracle money” and a “gift from God”. She said she “didn’t think twice” on whether it was wrong to spend it.
Her lawyer Mr Asanda Pakade appealed her sentence on the grounds that Mani was no danger to society, she had not sought out the money, and was not a candidate for overcrowded prisons.
He said that the National Student Financial Aid Scheme had wrongly sent her 14 million rand and had not even noticed such a staggering amount was missing until students alerted them. Appearing at the East London High Court in Makhanda, two judges agreed to suspend the five-year prison sentence providing she did not commit theft or fraud in that time.
The just-married mother-of-two was also told to complete 14 weeks of community service and undergo counselling but crazily was told she did not have to pay back 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 which was left in tatters back together again and is looking forward to starting afresh and is very grateful that the court took the decisions that it took.”
Branch secretary of the South African Students Congress Mr Samkelo Mqhayi who reported Mani to the NSFAS told Herald Live at the time: “She was just suddenly spending so much. Her supermarket receipt which was leaked showed she had 13.6m rand in her account and she had been throwing parties for her friends and showering them with gifts without worry.”
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