04th Sep2017

Sibongile Money

by admin

This article critically responds to the NSFAS saga that involved Sibongile Mani who accidentally had R 14 million deposited into her account. That amounts to $1 million. If we put ourselves into her shoes, it is possible to claim that we could have made a rational decision and actually send back the money. But really, would we have done that?

Listening to Wasanga Mehana on 702- he mentioned that he would have gone to several exotic and secluded places jumping from one place to another to make it difficult for government to trace him, and finally would have taken the money to Switzerland to hide it there. Although his idea sounds far fetched, he could have been successful and gotten away with it. The money was deposited 5 months ago and the matter was only brought up recently only because Mani shared slips of her expenditure and bank balance on social media.

She went on expensive shopping sprees, bought expensive phones and threw parties for her friends. In a period of five months, she spent close to R900 000. At that time she didn’t even spend the money on things that could be considered as assets, like a car or a house. She comes from a relatively disadvantaged background, and the way in which she spent her money reinforces the quote that says, “Rich people will remain rich because they act broke and poor people will remain poor because they act rich.” Now she is in a situation of real poverty. Despite the fact that the funds have been taken away from her account and that she is given 20 years to pay the money back, she now faces charges of fraud, theft and misappropriation of funds which could result in 15 years of imprisonment.

When looking at this story, one cannot look at the girl in isolation. One needs to account for the entire system. Knowing the nature of South Africans, or rather humans in general, no person would make a mistake with their money- ever. This incident could be a blessing in disguise as it could raise public awareness around the fact that this kind of activity does take place in the education funding programmes. NSFAS loans are meant to aid disadvantaged students which would increase their chances of graduating, getting a degree and contributing to the growth of South Africa’s economy. The fact that huge amount of money was deposited five months ago and there were no investigations conducted indicates that there are systemic problems around the regulation of student funds. If they had conducted a search it would have brought attention to potential corruption around the distribution of NSFAS funds- but instead they kept quiet. An assumption we could make is that the persons in charge of distributing funds made a mistake in the account number, hence the money was deposited in Sibongile’s account and not the person is was intended for.

The transactions that Mani made were frequent and the fact that they couldn’t pick it up reveals the inefficiencies in the scheme. Students have been rejected by NSFAS, some cannot go to school because either they owe too much, or they cannot afford university entrance. NSFAS has been asked to explain why many students have been rejected without any reason given and they haven’t been able to provide sound reasons. One could argue that the system is really failing SA citizens; the government is not representing us anymore but rather representing their own stomachs. What is the point then of having a democracy? This is why students end up protesting, and it is not a pleasant experience, but government leaves the student body no choice but to protest in order to get them to listen to their demands.

If we are to adhere to the principle of  rational decision making, she should have gracefully returned the money and even posted on social media that she had accidentally received the money. If she had contacted the bank, InteliMali and made them aware of the error, she would have received positive attention. NSFAS would have probably have made the decision to pay her tuition without expecting her to pay-back the money after completion of her degree.  But we know that you cannot separate humans and their money or rather as the stereotype goes, “you cannot come between Xhosa women and their money.” Unfortunately it was not her money so she must PAY BACK THE MONEY.

Sibongile Mani

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