A library worth close to R2m was torched during service delivery protests in Ixopo, the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Arts and Culture said on Monday.
The modular library in KwaNokweja, was apparently close to completion when the incident took place on Sunday night. The department spent R1.9m on it.
"We call upon all communities to honour and protect government facilities, these facilities are meant to service everyone in the community, both young and old. The [KwaNokweja] modular library was meant to assist the community and the children of that area to advance their knowledge and afford them access to information," MEC Bongiwe Sithole-Moloi said.
Sithole-Moloi said the torching had set back the department's mandate.
"Access to information is a constitutional right for every South African. We build libraries to fulfil this mandate and uplift rural communities. We urge the community to isolate these criminals that have done this and work with law enforcement agencies to apprehend them."
The library would have accommodated up to 100 people at a time. It had a study area and provided free internet access.
The department said it could have housed "3 000 library materials", including tertiary textbooks and resources that assist with pupil support.
It added that the library would have contributed towards the bolstering of literacy levels and provided much-needed access to information in Ward 11 and surrounding areas.
Police are investigating the incident.