Student given $1,000,000 university loan by mistake goes on huge shopping spree
What would you do with a million dollars? Go on a round-the-world trip? Buy a house? Invest it all in stocks and shares? For accountancy student Sibongile Mani, the answer was simple: go on a shopping spree.
After being mistakenly given 14.1 million Rand (just short of $1.1m) in food allowance, Mani didn't hesitate in blowing huge amounts of cash on expensive whiskey, designer clothes, and wild parties with her friends. For 73 days, the South African university student lived a life of luxury - over which period she managed to spend about $63,000.
However, 27-year-old Mani's indulgent lifestyle was soon put to a halt when the loan company realised what had happened.
Suspicions were first aroused when a receipt from a store showed that the student had over $1m in her account - obviously not the norm for somebody who was supposed to be receiving financial aid. Other students at the Walter Sisulu University (WSU) were also confused by Mani's sudden change in spending habits, with one person commenting that, “She [Mani] used to sport neat corn-rows and sometimes pushed back her hair, but she had recently started wearing a R3 000 ($230) Peruvian weave.”
Another student from a different university was quick to point out that, “She threw surprise birthday parties for her friends and showered them with expensive gifts and she used some of the money to fly to events like the Durban July and managed to buy front-row seats for televised events."
Understandably, this caused outrage - not just amongst other students who had been struggling to live on minimal supplies, but also the National Students’ Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), who oversee the allocation of funds to students in need.
The company who actually distributed the loan has said that, “It is rather unfortunate that the student did not query the extra zeros that have been put to the original amount she should have received," and has stated that it will make steps to recover the money.
After all this, Mani came under fire for her actions. In a statement posted on Twitter, she attempted to explain herself, opening with,
"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 has claimed that she reported the mistake to the relevant authorities, but that it was not acted upon. Despite this, she still admits that she knowingly spent money that was not legally hers. When prompted about her actions in an interview, Mani simply stated that, "It is very clear that I didn’t make the error, so call WSU and NSFAS."
Since then, Mani has not been active on social media, and has apparently gone into hiding after fleeing from the WSU campus. It is likely that she will be made to pay back the money, and that legal action could be taken if she fails to do so.