Five years ago, a South African student went on a spending spree and treated herself to the finer things in life after a bank error credited her account with $1 million. On June 1, 2017, Sibongile Mani, then a student at Walter Sisulu University (WSU) in South Africa, received payment for her monthly food allowance.
But while other students received their usual $100 monthly stipend, she was mistakenly given a payment of 14.1 million rand ($1 million), according to local site Times Live. The investigation revealed that Mani was overpaid into the account of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), which provides student loans to be repaid after graduation.
The mistake wasn’t discovered until August, and authorities said they would hold the student accountable for every dollar she (mis)spent.
Mani received the money from NSFAS through payment service company IntelliMali, and instead of pointing out the error, authorities said she started spending the money on luxury items , including transplants and cell phones, within two hours of receiving the money. By the time her account was blocked, she had used nearly $70,000 in 48 locations across the country, according to the BBC.
On Wednesday, March 30, 2022, Mani was convicted of theft and sentenced to five years in prison. East London Regional Magistrate Twanette, delivering her judgment, said the spending was driven by “greed and not need.”
“The only appropriate sentence is direct imprisonment,” she said, according to the BBC.
However, many South Africans condemned Mani’s five-year sentence, saying it was harsh. The South African Union of Students believes that those who transferred the money to Mani’s account should also be held accountable.
To others on social media, there is nothing wrong with what Mani has done, given the harsh living conditions of many people in South Africa.