East London – The student at the Walter Sisulu University who made headlines after R14m was inadvertently deposited into her student account, and of which she is said to have spent about R800 000, fled for her life on Monday after students at a media conference in East London threatened to assault her.
“Pay back the money! We want our money!” furious students demanded from Sibongile Mani and chaos erupted when they chased her between cars on the busy Buffalo Street, Netwerk24 reports.
The students shoved cellphone cameras into her face and took the mickey out of her, saying she should flash her R14m smile
Mani, who during the news conference refused to say anything, was shoved around by the students and eventually whisked away in a police car and taken to a police station.
When Netwerk24 got there, the petrified Mani was sitting on the cement floor with her hands covering her face.
Vusi Mahlangu, a member of the Pan Africanist Student Movement of Azania (Pasma), the organisation which had arranged the news conference, took Mani into his arms, hugged her and took her to a car before she was taken to her flat.
Despite the fact that Mani had attended the news conference, she stood behind members of Pasma who had fielded the questions.
According to Mahlangu, the only reason why she hadn’t spoken to the media was that she might be facing charges.
“We don’t want her to say anything which might be held against her in court.”
At the news conference, Mahlangu made it clear that rumours which have been circulating that Mani spent about R800 000 were not true.
According to him, the money that she’d spent was on food and books.
‘She is afraid’
He said the reason she started using some of the money, was because it remained in her account and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) hadn’t done anything to correct the error.
“She immediately reported it when she saw the money in her account. Unfortunately, nothing was done about it.
“For that reason, she, like any other student with money on her meal card, went to eat. And like those with a credit on their book card, she’d buy books.
“The money was for meals and meals only,” he emphasised.
Mahlangu skirted around questions of how Mani planned to pay the thousands of rands she is said to have spent, should she have to.
“The emphasis is on whether the court would expect it of her. We can’t speculate. We will handle that problem if it were to arise in future.”
Mahlangu also indicated that Pasma had appointed a lawyer to represent Mani.
“We are paying for her legal costs, she is, after all, one of us. We also don’t mind that she is being investigated because we are of the opinion that she might be innocent.”
Pasma spokesperson Masomelele Nongadlela said Mani doesn’t feel safe and is scared to leave her apartment.
“She is afraid that she will be assaulted. When she walks down the street, she gets strange looks. People even knock at her relatives’ doors. The relatives had been shocked by the whole thing,” said Nongadlela.
“We are going to make sure that she gets counselling. Perhaps she’ll be prepared to speak to the media after that.”