Two student leaders arrested on Tuesday and held overnight said they were urged by police officials to set aside their plans for nationwide protests over sharply increased tuition fees that have forced many students to abandon higher education.

Bulawayo Polytechnic Student Council President Blessing Vava and Christian Student Movement Chairman Lawrence Mashungu were detained overnight for taking part in demonstrations in Bulawayo following a campus meeting Tuesday morning.

Mashungu is also the regional chairman of the Zimbabwe National Students Union.

A crowd of students was marching to the offices of Bulawayo Provincial Governor Cain Mathema to demand a meeting when riot police broke up the march and arrested 78 students. Seventy-six of them were released Tuesday evening on their promise to return and pay a fine of Z$250, sources among student activists said.

Vava and Mashungu were taken to Luveve police station where, they later charged, police denied them food and withheld treatment for injuries.

Vava told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that further protests are expected across the country.

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