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Zuma sends condolences to TUT student leader’s family

Benjamin Phehla was run over by a car during clashes with police at TUT yesterday.

FILE: University students chanting for free, decolonised and quality education outside the Union Buildings on 20 October 2016. Picture: Christa Eybers/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - President Jacob Zuma has sent his condolences to the family and friends of a student who was killed during a "Fees Must Fall" protest in the capital.

Student leader Lesego Benjamin Phehla was run over by a car during clashes with police at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) yesterday.

The protest was sparked by the university's decision not to provide transport for the students to go to the Union Buildings.



In statement, the president says he's saddened to learn of Phehla's death and has reiterated his support for access to education.

The Presidency's Bongani Ngqulunga says, "The president is deeply saddened by the death of the student leader (Mr Lesego Phehla), who lost his life after reportedly being hit by a car yesterday."

In the wake of the death of the student leader, Zuma has appealed to students to return to class and resume the 2016 academic year.

Zuma also emphasised government's support for free higher education for the poor, adding that a ministerial task team is currently finding ways to address the crisis.

Ngqulunga says, "The president has said government agrees that university education is very expensive for the poor and some of the students cannot afford to pay."

Meanwhile, students at TUT are in mourning this afternoon.

Protesting TUT student march from the Soshanguve north to the south campus in remembrance of Phehla who died yesterday.

Student leader Thabani Kilo Boima says they have been shocked by Phehla's death.

"We're shocked and embarrassed by the management, because we pleaded with them to give us transport to go to the Union Buildings but instead they stopped them. If they'd given us transport, the incident would've not happened."

WATCH: The reason for the protests

Students say they're still waiting on Phehla's family for information about funeral arrangements.

'POLICE WATCHED AS PHEHLA WAS RUN OVER BY A CAR'

Students at the TUT claim police stood by and watched as Phehla was run over.

A TUT student told Eyewitness News that police and security guards continued fighting with protesters instead of pursuing the person responsible for Lesego's injuries.

"Everything happened in front of the South African Police Service. Instead of running after the person who injured Phehla they were busy brutalising our students."

Police say they won't be commenting on the claims as they're still under investigation.

TUT spokesperson Willa de Ruyter says they've sent their condolences to Phehla's family and friends.

"TUT is very saddened and shocked by the death of a student."

The university says tests scheduled for tomorrow will go ahead.