A South African university says a student leader of protests for free education was struck and killed by a car while protesters were allegedly blocking traffic on a road outside campus.

The Tshwane University of Technology said Friday that police are investigating the death of student Benjamin Phehla on Thursday. It says he was among three students hit when a driver "lost control of his car."

The university says the incident occurred on a road between campuses in Soshanguve, on the outskirts of Pretoria.

South African President Jacob Zuma has expressed sadness at Phehla's death.

Zuma says the government agrees that university education is expensive for the poor, but he urges protesters to return to class.

Demonstrations for free university education began last month.