What happened to Sibongile Mani? Is she dead?

Sibongile Mani is a former Walter Sisulu University student who rose to prominence after being convicted of fraud against the government of South Africa.

The 31-year-old single mother of two was the sole provider for her brother, cousin, and grandmother until her run-in with the authorities.

What happened to Sibongile Mani?

Sibongile Mani using her phone in court

Eligible under the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), Sibongile Mani, on June 1, 2017, received a monthly food and book allowance of 14 million ZAR via Intellimali instead of the 1,400 ZAR she was due. 

Sibongile Mani selfie

Rather than make a refund, the then-student spent about 818,000 ZAR of the 14 million ZAR in 73 days on luxury flights, expensive clothing, brand-new iPhones for her pals, and £50 bottles of whiskey at parties.

a collage of how Sibongile mani spent the NSFAS money on partying and clubbing
Sibongile Mani spent the NSFAS money on partying and clubbing

As a consequence of her indiscriminate spending, which left an indelible imprint of a shady source of income, Sibongile Mani was ultimately apprehended in May 2018 by the Hawks’ Serious Commercial Crime Unit.

She was accused of stealing on February 7, 2022.

Sibongile Mani at an event
Sibongile Mani during her spending spree

Director of Intellimali Roy Jackson acknowledged in court that the unintended transfer was the result of a system fault caused by an absurd technological problem. Sibongile Mani was found guilty and sentenced to five years in jail.

Sibongile Mani during her sentencingThe counsel for Mani argued that the East London regional court erred in finding her guilty of stealing and that the five-year sentence was disproportionate.

Sibongile Mani in court
Sibongile Mani in court

In their pre-sentencing statements, Department of Correctional Services probation officer Unathi Mahlanyana and social worker Phathiswa Vuza outlined three factors that supported Mani’s request for a sentence reduction: 

  • her socioeconomic background, 
  • her involvement in society, and 
  • the nature of her crime.

The sentence of Sibongile Mani has divided public opinion, and media sources have covered this in differing degrees.

Sibongile Mani in court

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Nevertheless, many agree with state prosecutor Jacques Cilliers, who argued that Mani’s conviction was fair since she frivolously wasted public funds.

On the other hand, there are many, particularly her colleagues, who argue that Mani is only a victim of a system that is purportedly unfair to blacks and the poor. 

Another group of analysts and observers acknowledge Mani’s wrongdoing but have some compassion for her, particularly as a single mother caring for not only her two children but also her brother, cousins and grandmother.

Sibongile Mani’s grandmother expressed disappointment that she spent so much money on frivolities rather than purchasing an appreciable asset, such as a home.

Sibongile Mani's grandmother was disappointed at her spending decisions
Sibongile Mani’s grandmother was disappointed at her spending decisions

Sibongile Mani is the first university graduate in her family; she has a bachelor’s degree in accounting, a certification in internal auditing, a post-graduate certificate in teaching, and was pursuing an honours degree prior to her imprisonment.

Is Sibongile Mani dead?

Sibongile Mani in court
Sibongile Mani in court

Although suffocated by her conviction, Sibongile Mani is very much alive and has been compelled to return the stolen 818000 ZAR for any hope of release.

Sibongile Mani is now serving a five-year sentence in jail.

There have been no remarks made on Mani’s behalf, but sympathy for the former Walter Sisulu University student has flooded in from all around South Africa.

Malcolm X, a businessman, pledged a 500,000 ZAR contribution towards Mani’s enormous debt and urged the public to assist in any way possible.

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