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South African police use tear gas, water canon to disperse student protesters in Pretoria

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Masked students from the Witwatersrand University engage in stone throwing with South African anti riot policemen in Johannesburg on October 11, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Police in South Africa have fired tear gas and set off stun grenades in the administrative capital city of Pretoria to disperse students protesting a government decision to increase tuition fees. 

Hundreds of students protesting against a government decision to increase tuition fees gathered outside South African President Jacob Zuma's offices in Pretoria on Thursday.

Nearly 300 protesters had gathered in a park outside the building, chanting slogans and demanding that higher education fees be scrapped.

Police used water cannon and later tear gas in a bid to disperse the crowd. In return, some angry student protesters hurled sticks and bottles at security forces.

The students also demanded the release of a student leader who had been arrested for taking part in an earlier demonstration.

"We are here to submit our memorandum demanding free education and the release of the arrested students," said MJ Wa Azania, 26, a student from University of Technology in Pretoria. 

South African anti-riot police try to prevent students protesting for free high education from disrupting lectures at the campus of North West University Vaal on October 17, 2016 in Vanderbijlpark, South Africa. (Photo by AFP)

Separately, students of Johannesburg's University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) also clashed with police during a demonstration on Thursday.

This comes a day after similar skirmishes at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town.

The first wave of protests over the growing fees rose last year but it settled after the government froze fee increases. Fresh rallies were staged after the government said last month that the fees were subject to an increase.

Students from the University of Witwatersrand protesting for free high education gather during a mass meeting on October 19, 2016, in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by AFP)

University authorities across the country have warned that any further fee freezes could endanger their academic programs.

Last week, Zuma formed a ministerial team to resolve the fees crisis. However, his government has said it could not allocate extra funds to education at the expense of health or housing.

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