A South African student who mistakenly got £850,000 instead of her usual £85 monthly university food grant and blew £50,000 of it in a 73-day spending spree has escaped jail.
Scholar Sibongile Mani, 32, relies on benefits to pay for her studies. But could not believe it when a government aid scheme sent her 10,000 times too much money.
The student released she had become an overnight multi-millionaire, with 14 million rands credited to her, when she checked her bank account in South Africa.
Instead of contacting government officials, the accountancy student embarked on a spending spree.
According to Mail Online, she ditched her old wardrobe for designer fashions bought herself and her friends the latest iPhones 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 got exposed when she left a till receipt behind at a supermarket which showed she had more than the equivalent of £800,000 in her bank and was reported to the cops.
She was arrested in 2017 and charged with theft and fraud, and in 2022 was sentenced to 5 years in prison after blowing 818,000 rand – equivalent to nearly £50,000 in 2017.
After being sentenced she wrote on her personal blog that she saw it as ‘miracle money’ and a ‘gift from God’ and ‘didn’t think twice’ on whether it was wrong to spend it.
But her lawyer Mr Asanda Pakade appealed on the grounds 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 5-year prison sentence providing she does not commit a 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 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’ he said.
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’.
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.Share this story to friends