Walter Sisulu student, Sibongile Mani, was recently found guilty of theft after R14 million was accidentally deposited into her account by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme. A legal analyst has unpacked the case and given insight into what direction her next court appearance may take.
In 2017 Walter Sisulu University student, Sibongile Mani was meant to receive R1 400 from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme. Instead, R14 million was deposited in her bank account and she spent more than R800 000 in a matter of weeks.
On Monday, 7 February 2022, she was convicted of theft.
Legal analyst Romeo Nthambeleni says that even though the R14 million was deposited into her account by mistake, the accounting student still had the responsibility to report the amount of the mistake to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.
It’s very easy to spend money that you have received in your account, but you must know that the moment you receive the money the responsibility has shifted from the person who made a deposit to you, you have a responsibility to do the right thing.
He adds that in similar cases, the complainant usually requests that the money spent be repaid and opts to withdraw the charges. However, if the accused is unable to repay the amount then the complainant must proceed with the case.
Nthambeleni also points out that the state is likely to argue for a custodial sentence in her next court appearance, but says there is a chance that Mani might get a non-custodial sentence since she did no solicit the money but merely received it by mistake.
Various other factors will be taken to account during sentencing including the fact that she is a student as well as a first time offender. Getting a non-custodial sentence means that Mani would serve her prison sentence outside of jail, whereas a custodial sentence implies the opposite.
In either outcome, the student will still have a criminal record against her name, which could hamper her employment prospects in the future. She is due to make another court appearance for pre-sentencing on 8 March 2022.