Judgment in the trial of Walter Sisulu University (WSU) student, Sibongile Mani, who erroneously received more than R14 million in her student account from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), has again been postponed.
On Tuesday, the East London Regional Court had to postpone the matter because Magistrate Twanett Olivier could not make it to court to deliver the judgment, as she was booked off sick.
Judgment was initially set to be handed down on 17 November, but because Mani was writing exams the date was moved to 14 December.
Mani, who is accused of theft after she allegedly spent more than R800 000 of the R14 million, finished writing exams for her post-graduate diploma on 3 December and was ready to hear the verdict.
Regional court magistrate Deon Russouw on Tuesday told Mani’s lawyer, Asanda Pakade, and prosecutor, advocate Luthando Makoyi, that Olivier was ill.
Her doctor booked her off sick until the end of January, the court heard.
The 31-year-old Mani was arrested in May 2018 by the Hawks’ Serious Commercial Crimes Unit after she used more than R820 000 of the roughly R14 million that was erroneously deposited into her student account on 1 June 2017.
In terms of a loan agreement with NSFAS, the second-year accounting student, at the time, was only entitled to a monthly R1 400 meal allowance.
The theft case was opened by Intelimali, a Cape Town-based company responsible for disbursing students’ funds on behalf of universities.
Intelimali director Roy Jackson attributed the erroneous transfer to a systems failure caused by an “absurd or ridiculous technical glitch or hacker”.
He said NSFAS, the Department of Higher Education and Training, and the Public Protector investigated the transfer and found that no one was at fault.
Mani’s actions, however, caused his company great financial and reputational damage, he said.
It had to pay the R820 000 to the university and also hired auditors Ernst & Young for R500 000 to launch an investigation.
The State alleged that Mani immediately embarked on a spending spree and blew R820 000 in 73 days.
It wants her to be found guilty of theft for using money that she knew did not belong to her.