Sibongile Mani $1m bank error moral dilemma: How a banking error led to one South African accounting student acquiring a windfall until she got caught.
Sibongile Mani a South African student has sparked a moral dilemma debate after accidentally receiving a loan payment of $1,080,000 instead of her usual $108 monthly university financial aid and spending the money on luxury items.
Matters came to the fore when Mani an accounting student at Walter Sisulu University in Mthatha, Eastern Cape, South Africa, came one month to receive a windfall payment instead of her usual $108 each month which she is supposed to use to pay for food and books.
At the time Intellimali, the company that administers the financial aid allowances at the university, unwittingly erred and sent $1,080,000 in cash to the poor student, adding a few extra zeros to what she normally received.
While most would think to notify banking authorities of the ‘banking error’, Mani chose instead to use the money to live a kind of existence she could have only have dreamed of.
Notes the nypost: ‘Eyebrows were raised initially when her neat cornrow hairstyle was replaced with $230-a-pop Peruvian weaves and she began wearing designer outfits and bought a brand new iPhone 7.
‘She began flashing the cash to her closest friends. They’d get new outfits and enjoy $65 bottles of whisky while they jetted around the country to attend wild parties.’
Suspicions grew when a receipt from a local convenience store leaked online showing Mani had $1,050,000 in her account.
And how Sibongile Mani finally got caught:
She was finally outed by Samkelo Mqhayi, deputy branch secretary of the South African Students Congress (SASCO), who reported her to the National Students’ Financial Aids Scheme.
Mqhayi told Herald Live: ‘She threw surprise birthday parties for her friends and showered them with expensive gifts and flew them to events where she bought the best seats.’
‘When the receipt was leaked showing a balance of R13.6 million ($1,050,000) in her account, I called NSFAS and they checked their records and confirmed that the initial amount was R14 million ($1,080,000).’
By the time the student was reined her in after her 2½-month spending spree, authorities discovered Mani had spent upwards of $860 a day, a staggering amount in South Africa.
The total missing from the account $65,000.
Sibongile Mani: fellow students tell of their shock.
Told a fellow student: ‘She went from a hard-up, humdrum, run-of-the-mill student to one who was leading a lavish lifestyle and seemed to have no bottom to her purse and lived the high life.’
‘She became very glamorous in beautiful dresses with all the accessories and we thought she must have won the Lottery. She must have thought she had won it too when she got that cash!’
Reiterated SASCO branch chairman Zolile Zamisa via the Herald Live: ‘We are shocked. Not so long ago we were protesting for thousands of students who were left without funding due to fund shortages.’
‘Yet she was living a lavish lifestyle hosting birthday parties for her friends at up-market champagne clubs and other expensive hangouts. This cannot be allowed to happen again.’
In her defense, Mani countered on a Facebook post that she’d reported the error to the authorities.
Told Mani: ‘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.’
Mani has since fled the campus and gone into hiding, saying she fears for her life.
Told Mani via the Times LIVE: ‘It is very clear that I didn’t make the error.’
Walter Sisulu University spokeswoman Yonela Tukwayo said the $1,080,000 payment did not affect other students: ‘All students who were due to receive NSFAS payments got them.’
‘She will have to repay the money.’
Intellimali chief executive Michael Ansell said: ‘Legal action will be taken against the student. A forensic investigator had been appointed.’
The university has 30,500 students of whom 18,000 are funded by the NSFAS who are meant to spend their monthly grants on food and books.
Legal experts have said Mani could face a charge of theft.
Social media also weighed in on Sibongile Mani’s ethical dilemma:
Underscoring the ethical dilemma of having spent money that one almost certainly knew arrived by mistake commentators have weighed in with a variety of opinions.
Wrote one commentator on the web, ‘No ethics, integrity, honor, or character. She has the audacity to try to defend her actions. Add delusional to the list.’
While another wrote, ‘You are a thief.you knew it was a mistake but never reported it but proceed to live the lavish life style.’
Which is to wonder had Mani instead used the money to constructively re invest in her future, or donated it to charity or other just causes would she still have been vehemently reprimanded?
Wrote another, ‘What was she thinking? She must have known it would have to be repaid …she’s ruined her career prospects and made a complete fool of herself. Silly woman.’
While another reader wrote, ‘If that happened to me: step 1 – open a bank account in the Caymen Islands step 2 – transfer the money to said account step 3 – buy a Caymen Islands passport step 4 – move to the Caymen Islands.’
A comment which some may sadly wonder represents what actually goes on in the real world day after day under the cover of legal writ and lobbying of politicians to exact favorable changes in policy or regulations. Never mind the fact that as an accountancy student, Mani one day will probably be asked to configure and implement schemes which will assure her employer stealth by night ….