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South African students storm parliament, police react

South African riot police have shot tear gas and stun grenades in a bid to stop students from entering parliament as the finance minister read the interim budget. The students are protesting a hike in tuition fees.

Chaos erupted Wednesday outside the South African parliament building in Cape Town as students stormed the precinct in a bid to stop Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene from reading an interim budget.

Riot police fired tear gas and stun grenades in a bid to disperse around 1,000 students, who were

protesting a proposed hike of up to 11.5 percent in tuition fees.

The students later moved to another gate outside parliament.

Nene's budget speech was also interrupted by opposition lawmakers, including members of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party.

Members of the opposition - who support the student movement - chanted "Fees must fall!" prior to being forcefully removed from the chamber by parliamentary guards, allowing the finance minister to finish his reading.

Students protest

Wednesday's protests follow a countrywide wave of demonstrations, which kicked off on October 13 against proposals to increase tuition fees in 2016 by nearly 12 percent.

Watch video 03:36

#FeesMustFall: South African students protest tuition fees hike

Johannesburg's University of Witwatersrand dropped proposals for a 10.5-percent increase in fees after protests forced university authorities to suspend classes and operations this week.

Nearly all of the country's universities have followed suit.

Meanwhile, South African Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande on Tuesday attempted to appease university bosses and protesting students by proposing a

6 percent cap on tuition increases.

University authorities called on the government to provide further educational subsidies, citing the need for more financial resources in order to maintain standards.

Budget concerns

The South African government is struggling to cope with an

economic slowdown,

with GDP growth slowing to 1.5 percent in 2014, down from 3.2 percent in 2011, according to World Bank figures.

Despite cutting back on economic growth forecasts for 2015, South African authorities said the country will continue to stabilize its debt in order to avoid a credit ratings downgrade.

"As we are in a position of stabilizing our debt, which is one of the risks, and as we continue to stay the course in terms of fiscal consolidation, there would be no reason for a downgrade," Finance Minister Nene told journalists prior to reading a medium-term budget, according to Reuters news agency.

Authorities believe that a ratings downgrade could trigger a sharp increase in interest rates as well as foreign capital outflows.

ls/msh (Reuters, AP, dpa)

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