The South African Union of Students (SAUS) said that while it condemned the actions of convicted Walter Sisulu University student, Sibongile Mani, her sentencing was harsh and devoid of justice.
Mani was handed a five-year jail sentence by the East London Regional Court on Wednesday for stealing over R800,000 from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
The accounting student went on a shopping spree when R14 million was mistakenly paid into her bank account in 2017.
She was only entitled to an R1,400 monthly allowance for food.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has welcomed Mani’s sentence of five years’ direct imprisonment for the theft.
Spokesperson, Luxolo Tyali, said that between 1 June, when the money landed in her account, and 13 August, when NSFAS found out about the error, she had spent an average of R11,000 per day.
“We hope that the sentence is a lesson not only to her but to other younger people that dishonestly taking what is not yours is a punishable offence,” Tyali said.
However, the South African Union of Students said that those who transferred the R14 million into Mani’s account should also be held liable.
“The seems to be scapegoating and hiding from the broader corruption and criminal syndicate that exists, particularly around students and funding,” said its president Asive Dlangwa.
Mani pleaded for a suspended sentence, but the judge said that this was inappropriate.
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