Durban - Fifteen female Mangosuthu University of Technology students were treated for smoke inhalation after they awoke to find their residence on fire in the early hours of on Thursday.
The institution got a court interdict to try to prevent further unrest after students started protesting last Thursday over fees.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Mashupye Kgaphola said “a suspected arsonist or arsonists” set fire to one of the female residences on campus.
None of the students was injured.
Speaking at a briefing on Thursday, Kgaphola said: “The affected building is one in which we have placed female students with disabilities.
“The suspected arsonists chose the most vulnerable students who they knew would find it more difficult to escape.
“The estimated cost of damage since the beginning of the protests is about R250 000, and that includes what we suspect to be about R90 000 from today’s fire,” said the deputy vice-chancellor, Professor Khehla Ndlovu.
The institution had tightened security measures again after the latest incident.
On Wednesday a palm tree and an ambulance were set alight.
Ndlovu said five students who had been identified as the ringleaders of the protests had been suspended and would be contacted about their disciplinary hearing within the next 14 days.
Student representative council spokesman Thulani Mchunu condemned the suspected arson attack and said he did not understand why some students thought damaging university property would achieve anything.
“We are here to get an education, not for politics. Even when we don’t see eye-to-eye with management that doesn’t mean we should do things that could cause harm to our peers,” he said.
“I do, however, wish the closing date for registration could have been extended to at least next week Friday, seeing that we have had so many disruptions,” said Mchunu.
Police are investigating a case of malicious damage to property. No arrests have been made yet.