Student who 'blew' R800 000, still funded by NSFAS

Despite facing a theft charge for allegedly blowing R800000 of the R14-million erroneously deposited into her student account by NSFAS last year, university student Sibongile Mani was allocated an estimated R100000 by the scheme this year.

Mani confirmed after her brief appearance at the East London Magistrate's Court yesterday that she was studying at Walter Sisulu University (WSU) with the scheme's financial backing.

#OutsourcingMustFall activist and Pan African Student Movement of Azania (Pasma) leader Vusi Mahlangu, who was in court with Mani, said this proved Mani was academically deserving of the scheme.

"Yes, she has been allocated more funding because she is an excellent student. She qualified for NSFAS again . The mere fact that she qualified means that she passed [her exams]," said Mahlangu, adding that NSFAS also covered Mani's accommodation, books, and food.

WSU spokeswoman Yonela Tukwayo confirmed that Mani was studying through NSFAS for the national accounting diploma.

Tukwayo said the course costs between R52000 and R90000 per year excluding food, books, transport and accommodation.

While Tukwayo, NSFAS and Mani declined to divulge the exact value of the funding, students close to Mani said the figure was believed to be in the region of R100000.

Yesterday, NSFAS spokesman Kagisho Mamabolo said: "Our focus is to ensure that all eligible students are funded accurately and ensure that funds are disbursed to students on time."

Mani cut a confident figure in court yesterday, dressed in a stylish blazer with freshly done cornrows.

Magistrate Rochelle Sam postponed the case for pre-trial to July 24 and also to allow the defence team to get a copy of the docket.

Mani is the secretary of PAC student body Pasma. Mahlangu is its national spokesman.

Mani made international headlines in August after it emerged that millions of rands were erroneously loaded into her account and that she had blown more than R800000 of that money on lavish parties, fashion and smart gadgets in just 73 days.

Mahlangu and other Pasma students shielded Mani outside court, also preventing her from speaking to Sowetan's sister newspaper, Daily Dispatch.

Mani is represented by East London attorney Asanda Pakade of Godongwana Ngonyama Pakade Attorneys.

Pasma has now called for the Hawks to arrest "others" who were involved in the R14-million transfer blunder.

"We still continue to say, not only Sibongile must be summonsed because there are other people who were involved in the transfer of the money into her account," said Mahlangu.

But NSFAS's Mamabolo said: "It is important to note that this is a criminal investigation under judicial consideration, therefore we are prohibited from giving details, and making any public comments on this matter.

"Given the circumstances, and the criticality of this matter, the police would be more appropriate to give a response."

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