Africa

South African Shopping-spree Student Jailed After $1m Error

South African Shopping-spree Student Jailed After $1m Error

A South African female student was found guilty of theft and jailed for five years, after erroneously receiving nearly $1m in her bank account and went on a spending spree.

Sibongile Mani 31,  had received 14m rand in her account instead of her monthly student grant of 1,400 rand in June 2017 and started spending it immediately.

The money came from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) – through payment services firm IntelliMali – while she was a student at Walter Sisulu University.

Ms Mani, as stated in the court did not report the error but started spending the money within two hours of receiving it.

By the time her account was blocked, she had used nearly $70,000 in 48 places across the country in 73 days. Spending it on weaves, mobile phones, alcohol, bedding, gift cards and luxury goods.

In handing down her judgment, East London Regional Magistrate Twanette Olivier noted that it was remarkable that Ms Mani had managed to splurge so much across the country each day.

She said that many students would have been affected had IntelliMali not paid back the money she had spent.

The magistrate also noted that the spending was inspired by “greed not need”, dismissing an argument that she was a victim of an impoverished background.

“The only sentence that is appropriate is direct imprisonment,” she said.

Ms Mani’s lawyer said her client would appeal at a hearing on 11 April.

The five-year sentence has also drawn widespread criticism, with many feeling it was too harsh for a young first-time offender who happened to come across a large amount of money in her account.

She will be eligible for parole after serving one third of her five-year sentence.

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