Sibongile Mani, a Walter Sisulu University education honors degree student, has been sentenced to five years in jail for the theft of more than R800,000 in National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funds.

Members of the gallery were teary while Mani, a mother of two, stood unmoved in the dock as East London regional court magistrate Twanette Olivier delivered the sentence.

Olivier said a suspended sentence was not suitable, warned about “misplaced pity” and said Mani was not a victim.

“The court has a duty to impose a fearlessly appropriate and fair sentence even if such a sentence would not satisfy public opinion,” Olivier said.

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Mani, 31, was convicted last month of theft after money was deposited into her student account in error by Intellimali, an NSFAS service provider.

More than R14m was deposited into her account in 2017, instead of the R1,400 she was entitled to as a beneficiary.

Within hours, Mani had spent more than R20,000. She had splurged more than R800,000 before her account was frozen.

Mani’s attorney Asanda Pakade had made an impassioned plea for a suspended sentence, while the state said the offence was” extremely serious” and a matter of public money theft.

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By J Times

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