The South African Union of Students said the justice system used convicted Walter Sisulu University student Sibongile Mani as a scapegoat, adding that millions of rands were embezzled from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) with no accountability.
The student was sentenced to five years in prison by the East London Regional Court on Wednesday.
In February, Mani was found guilty of stealing over R800,000 from NSFAS.
This was after she went on a shopping spree when R14 million was mistakenly paid into her bank account in 2017.
Mani pleaded for a suspended sentence but the judge said that was inappropriate.
The union’s president Asive Dlanjwa said while it condemned her actions, her sentencing was harsh and devoid of justice.
“It does not make sense. We think the state is trying to scapegoat and prove a non-existent point by using a student. It is absolutely unacceptable; we can’t accept what has happened. Maybe even the judiciary has a role to play because how is it that government officials are getting suspended sentences and students who have no previous criminal convictions are getting sentenced to 5 years? It does not make sense to us.”
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