Justice for Sibongile Mani: Support group says 'court made an error', ropes in top lawyer to assist

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Following her sentencing, there is a raging legal debate over Sibongile Mani's prosecution.
Following her sentencing, there is a raging legal debate over Sibongile Mani's prosecution.
Lulama Zenzile/Gallo Images
  • The Justice for Sibongile Mani support group roped in Thembeka Ngcukaithobi to challenge the student's sentence for theft.
  • Mani was sentenced to five years in prison for using just over R800 000 of R14 million erroneously paid to her in 2017. 
  • The support group claims the court made a mistake and believes a higher court will overturn the ruling.

A support group, known as the Justice for Sibongile Mani, slammed the conviction of the NSFAS thief, saying they will do everything in their power to prevent her from going to prison.

She was sentenced to five years in jail.

Mani, a Walter Sisulu University (WSU) student, was found guilty of theft on 7 February 2022 after blowing R818 000 of R14 million erroneously credited into her account on 1 June 2017.  

She is currently out on extended bail after the East London regional court granted her leave to appeal. 

Her lawyer, Asanda Pakade, slammed the sentence as shocking, adding that he would appeal both the conviction and the sentence.  

Pakade believes a higher court will overturn the judgment of the magistrate, Twanette Olivier. 

The matter will be heard on 11 April.

Formed by various activists, social and political figures, the support group met over the weekend in East London.

The group, in a statement released at a media briefing, said it supported Mani in her bid to clear her name. 

It said the student was not a criminal, but was being used as a scapegoat to cover the tracks of actual criminals roaming around.

The group announced that the president of the WSU convocation, advocate Thembeka Ngcukaithobi, would assist its legal team in appealing the sentence.

In addition, businesspeople and high-profile lawyers were approached to ensure the matter got the attention it deserved.   

The support group shared Pakade's sentiments that Olivier's ruling was wrong and a huge mistake. 

READ 'The Guptas ran away with billions' - public slams NPA for targeting 'poor' student over NSFAS funds

NSFAS had since issued a statement that it never incurred any financial loss due to Mani's spending. 

InteliMali, which erroneously paid the millions to Mani, reimbursed WSU for the money spent, so that other students would not be prejudiced. 

InteliMali director Roy Jackson had testified in court that the erroneous transfer was due to a systems error, and that it was caused by an "absurd technical glitch".

The support group called for an investigation into the glitch. 

It said:

When giving its sentence, the court kept referring to the interest of the public that is worried about misuse of taxpayers' money, yet NSFAS is on record to having said no public funds were lost and not a single student was denied funding by the incident.

"It is exactly from this point that we believe the court made an error and the higher court must overturn the decision."

Jackson told the court that InteliMali had opened a case of theft against Mani because she caused the company great financial and reputational damage. 

He said InteliMali had to pay back the money used by Mani to WSU, and a further R500 000 to auditors Ernst&Young to investigate how the error happened.

No one was fingered for any wrongdoing by the investigation. 


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