- The nearly-five year-long NSFAS theft case of former WSU accounting student Sibongile Mani concluded on Monday
- The court found Mani guilty of theft after she used more than R800 000 from an amount of R14 million mistakenly deposited to her
- Judge Twanette Olivier said Mani's actions were orchestrated, citing she had malicious intent by failing to disclose the erroneous payment
- Following the judgement, people from all walks of life headed online to react to the verdict, with some slamming the justice system
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EAST LONDON - The Walter Sisulu University (WSU) student at the centre of the R14 million National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) debacle was found guilty of theft in the East London Regional Court.
In 2017, the student financial aid scheme mistakenly deposited the large sum of money into Sibongile Mani's account, of which she spent close to R820 000 in just over 70 days, EWN reported.
"NPA is useless": SA unhappy with NPA's stance on NSFAS student Sibongile Mani's R14 million theft conviction
On Monday, the court disregarded the former accounting student's explanation that she did not intend to deny NSFAS its money, among the evidence presented by the state, having been eligible to receive a fixed monthly food allowance of R1 400.
The prosecution argued Mani intentionally kept mum about receiving 10 000 times more the amount before opting to splurge as much of it as she could for two and a half months between June and August, News24 reported.
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Splurged with no conscience
According to reports on the ground, the Hawks tracked down and arrested Mani in May 2018 before a case of theft was opened by Intellimali, a company specialising in the administration and distribution of NSFAS payments.
East London Regional Court presiding officer Twanette Olivier rubbished Mani's justifications, citing the State's version that she harboured malicious intent by deliberately withholding knowledge of the erroneous payment.
"The actions were well-orchestrated. The accused's actions were contrary to someone who lacked knowledge [of the correctness or otherwise] of them. Witness affidavits were corroborated by documented evidence placed on record in detail," said Olivier.
"The court finds [Mani's] version is not satisfactory or accurate. The accused knew her actions were prohibited and had the necessary intent to steal. Her actions were not those of someone acting blindly. Based on the evidence, the accused is guilty of theft in the amount R818 000," Olivier added.
Polarising views expressed online
South Africans who'd been following the years-long case flooded various social media platforms with wide-ranging views. While many praised the relatively quick turnaround with which the matter was finalised, questions were raised around why politicians and others in high places weren't treated the same.
Briefly News takes a look at many of the comments that were shared below.
@Jonathan Davies wrote:
"Well, justice was served relatively fast in this case. Why can't we have the same speedy resolution for crimes of theft involving politicians and government officials? We are still waiting on so many cases. Just shows you there are two judicial systems. One for the rich, and one for the poor."
@Samson Siweya said:
"What about the one who made a big mistake by depositing the wrong amount? No one can resist money, even those in a higher position couldn't resist such an amount. It's really unfair to find her guilty the student never stole it was given to her."
@Nick Sabbagha added:
"It took them four years? Anyway, she is prime material to become an ANC politician, no one can so gladly take other peoples money and then pretend that they did nothing wrong."
R3.4m Capitec theft suspect appears in court
Elsewhere, Briefly News recently reported that a third person was arrested by the Hawks for allegedly having a hand in defrauding Absa of R103 million amid his appearance in the Bellville Specialised Commercial Crimes Court on Tuesday.
According to News24, the 29-year-old man was in court to face similar charges after allegedly stealing R3.4 million from Capitec Bank. It's thought he was also in cahoots with Xolela Masebani, reportedly a relative of his, to steal the large sum of money from Absa, where the former worked as a specialist engineer.
"Gershom Matomane allegedly received R74 million of the money stolen by Masebani, who made transfers to six accounts, including one belonging to a company linked to Matomane," said Gauteng Hawks spokesperson Captain Ndivhuwo Mulamu.
Source: Briefly News