WSU was given R100m to aid thousands of needy students – but gave R14m to 1

WSU was given R100m to aid thousands of needy students – but gave R14m to 1

Walter Sisulu University B Tech student Sibongile Mani.

Walter Sisulu University B Tech student Sibongile Mani.

  • The case against Sibongile Mani, who erroneously received R14 million in NSFAS funds, was postponed to 5 August on Friday. 
  • Walter Sisulu University is one of only four universities that administer NSFAS allocations to students.
  • Outside court, the PAC said Mani was innocent and that she was a “mere accidental receiver of the money”.

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) transferred R100 million to Walter Sisulu University (WSU) in 2017 after the university insisted it can handle administering funds for students.

But it hired a service provider that erroneously transferred R14 million of the money to a single student instead of giving her a required R1 400.

A former senior manager in the legal department at NSFAS until October 2020, Adam Williams, revealed this while testifying in the East London Regional Court in the theft trial of B-Tech student Sibongile Mani on Thursday.

“There are two types of paying allocations for student allowances: one is done by NSFAS when a university could not do it themselves. Walter Sisulu University administered the allowances through a third party service provider,” he said.

Williams added NSFAS had no oversight of third party service providers, including the one that made the error, Intelimali.

READ | I cannot confirm wrongdoing in R14m erroneous transfer to student, ex-NSFAS official tells court

“An upfront payment in the region of R100 million was paid to WSU.”

He said the millions paid to the university for student aid came from the Department of Higher Education and Training.

Mani was entitled to R1 400 each month from February to November, added Williams.

WSU is one of four universities, out of 26 public ones, handling NSFAS money for students.

At other institutions, NSFAS directly deals with students and transfers money directly to them.

Mani is accused of failing to report the error and embarking on a spending spree, using R820 000 in 73 days.

In court, she was in high spirits, chatting to journalists during the adjournment, telling News24 she was near completing her postgraduate diploma in education from WSU’s Komani campus.

READ | NSFAS’ R14m ‘technical glitch’: Another delay in case against student accused of theft

Mani, who holds a national diploma in accounting, revealed her plans to teach accounting after graduating. 

“I have already secured in-service training. I will be teaching accounting at Komani Girls’ High School after finishing exams next week,” she said.

She is a former secretary and chairperson of the PAC’s student body, the Pan African Student Movement of Azania.

Outside the court building, her supporters were seen waving PAC flags.

PAC Buffalo City secretary Nceba Bontsi said the justice system was crucifying Mani for an erroneous transfer she never did.

He added the culprits were at the company that administered the funds for WSU – Intelimali.

Bontsi said Mani was innocent and the party would support her until the last day of the trial.

“Sibongile never asked for R14 million. She is a mere accidental receiver of the money. She had a right to use the money because it was in her account.”

The State charged that between June 1 2017, when the money landed in her account, until August 13 2017, when NSFAS found out about the error, she had spent an average of R11 000 per day.

She was arrested by the Serious Commercial Crime Unit of the Hawks in May 2018.

Magistrate Twanett Olivier postponed the case to 5 August after Mani’s lawyer, Asanda Pakade, objected to an introduction of a new state witness.

READ | Finance clerk pleads guilty to stealing over R6m from a farm business

The State had called its last witness in the case – WSU chief financial officer Morgan Nhiwatiwa – but Pakade refused to cross-examine him, describing his late introduction as an “ambush trial”.

He said the State did not give the defence a fair warning about its plans to introduce a new witness to give new evidence.

Nhiwatiwa told the court he was an acting chief financial officer at NSFAS when the erroneous transfer happened.

He said he only joined WSU in 2019.

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