A South African Cabinet minister says a small minority of university students is trying to spread "anarchy" with violent protests calling for free education.

Education Minister Blade Nzimande said Monday that nationwide student protests for a reduction in university fees were initially peaceful and legitimate, but have since been hijacked by radicals who want to sabotage higher education in South Africa.

Nzimande says the government has increased funding for poor university students.

Protests had forced the closure of several South African universities in the past two weeks.

The University of Cape Town re-opened on Monday, although some students sought to disrupt classes there. The University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg also announced the return of staff on Monday and said the academic program will resume on Tuesday.