Poor student lives the high life after $1M financial aid snafu
A student who received a staggering $1,080,000 instead of her usual $108 monthly university financial aid is in hot water after going on a massive 73-day spending spree with her friends.
Accountancy student Sibongile Mani, 27, who was on benefits to allow her to study, was said to have undergone a Cinderella-like transformation overnight after the cash blunder.
Mani, who studies at the Walter Sisulu University in Mthatha, Eastern Cape, South Africa, gets $108 each month put into her bank account, which she is supposed to use to pay for food and book.
But instead, Intellimali, the company that administers the financial aid allowances at the university, messed up and sent $1,080,000 in cash to the poor student.
Eyebrows were raised initially when her neat corn-row hairstyle was replaced with $230-a-time Peruvian weaves and she began wearing designer outfits and bought a brand new iPhone 7.
She began flashing the cash on her closest friends. They’d get new outfits and enjoy $65 bottles of whisky while they jetted around the country to attend wild parties.
Suspicions grew when a receipt from a local convenience store leaked online showing that she had $1,050,000 in her account.
She was finally outed by Samkelo Mqhayi, deputy branch secretary of the South African Students Congress (SASCO), who reported her to the National Students’ Financial Aids Scheme.
Mqhayi told Herald Live: “She threw surprise birthday parties for her friends and showered them with expensive gifts and flew them to events where she bought the best seats.”
“When the receipt was leaked showing a balance of R13.6-million ($1,050,000) in her account I called NSFAS and they checked their records and confirmed that the initial amount was R14-million ($1,080,000).”
By the time they reined her in after her two-and-a-half-month spending spree they discovered she had been blowing $860 a day, which is a staggering amount in South Africa.
The total missing from the account is $65,000.
A fellow student said: “She went from a hard up, humdrum run-of-the-mill student to one who was leading a lavish lifestyle and seemed to have no bottom to her purse and lived the high life.”
“She became very glamorous in beautiful dresses with all the accessories and we thought she must have won the Lottery. She must have thought she had won it too when she got that cash!”.
SASCO branch chairman Zolile Zamisa told Herald Live: “We are shocked. Not so long ago we were protesting for thousands of students who were left without funding due to fund shortages.”
“Yet she was living a lavish lifestyle hosting birthday parties for her friends at up-market champagne clubs and other expensive hangouts. This cannot be allowed to happen again”.
In a Facebook post, Mani claimed she had reported the error to the authorities.
She said:”Today my personal life has become a social media scandal. I have been named and shamed in public. Today, I am a bad person, a person who stole the money of students.”
“With that being said, and being named a thief, but as we all know in every story there is truth and there are lies with the very same story.”
She said she was not denying anything but would tell her side later but she has fled the campus and gone into hiding.
Mani told the Times Live:”It is very clear that I didn’t make the error.”
Walter Sisulu University spokeswoman Yonela Tukwayo said the $1,080,000 payment did not affect other students saying: “All students who were due to receive NSFAS payments got them.”
“She will have to repay the money”.
Intellimali chief executive Michael Ansell said: “Legal action will be taken against the student. A forensic investigator had been appointed.”
The university has 30,500 students of whom 18,000 are funded by the NSFAS who are meant to spend their monthly grants on food and books.
Legal experts have said Mani could face a charge of theft.