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Police, students clash in South Africa capital in fees protest

Riot police officers keep watch as students chant slogans outside the Hillbrow magistrate court during an appearance of their colleagues who were arrested during a protest demanding free education at the Johannesburg's University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, October 12, 2016. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Police in the South African capital Pretoria clashed with students who burned tires and erected barricades in protest at university fees on Wednesday, a day after President Jacob Zuma appointed a special team to help end weeks of protests.

The often violent demonstrations over the cost of university education, which is prohibitive for many black students, have highlighted frustration at enduring inequalities more than two decades after the end of apartheid.

Zuma on Tuesday formed a ministerial team to help end the protests but his government has said education subsidies should not come at the expense of other services such as health or housing. It also said 2017 university fees may rise by up to 8 percent.

“The TUT students did go through the Pretoria CBD (central business district) but public order policing have now dispersed them,” said police spokeswomen Sally De Beer, referring to Pretoria’s Tshwane University of Technology (TUT).

She said several students were arrested over the clashes, which disrupted traffic in parts of the city, but could not confirm how many.

Police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse the protesters, News24 Online service said.

Some students are demanding all universities be shut down until the government provides free education.

Students at the University of the Witwatersand (Wits) -- the where most of the clashes with police occurred in the last week -- gathered outside a court in Johannesburg in support of their colleagues facing charges of public disturbance.

Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg; Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky