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14 May 2019 | Story Thabo Kessah | Photo Tsepo Moeketsi
Prof Ashafa
Prof Ashafa’s research documents plants used by the Basotho in the management of different ailments.

The Phytomedicine and Phytopharmacology Research Programme (PPRP) in the Department of Plant Sciences on the Qwaqwa Campus researches the biological effects of medicinal plants used in the folkloric medicine of the Eastern Free State, particularly to explore the values and contribution of indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) towards broader scientific research. This is according to the programme’s principal investigator and researcher, NRF C2-rated researcher, Professor Anofi Ashafa. 

 “Our research is mainly aimed at documenting plants used by the Basotho in the management of different ailments and to further discover, isolate, and purify active phytoconstituents that are responsible for disease curation or amelioration, thereby assisting in the global promotion of accessible and affordable medication in developing countries,” said Prof Ashafa. 

Since 2012, the PPRP has worked extensively on Basotho medicinal plants (BMP) used as antimicrobials, antioxidants, antidiabetics, antitubercular, anticancer, anthelmintic, and antidiarrheal agents, starting from biological activities up to the  evaluation of the toxicity of these plants for the kidney, liver, and heart functions in order to establish safe dosage parameters. These activities have led to the discovery of four potent antidiabetic biomolecules that are awaiting the processes of patency and commercialisation. Additional outputs include 104 published peer-reviewed articles , 7 postdoctoral fellows, 6 PhDs, 9 master’s, and 16 honours graduates. 

“Our research informs teaching and the development of expertise in ethnobotany, 
phytomedicine, and phytopharmacology in order to contribute to the National Development Plan (NDP) through human capacity development, skills, and knowledge transfer.

The group is also investigating some medicinal plants on the endangered red list of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), through micropropagation and field trials as well as proposing conservation strategies to preserve these valuable species.

The PPRP consists of postdoctoral fellows, PhD, master’s, and honours students and research is done in collaboration with several local and international universities as well as the Agricultural Research Council of South Africa. 


News Archive

UFS’s Unit for Children’s Rights instrumental in helping human trafficked victim
2010-03-29

Adv. Beatri Kruger.
Photo: Leonie Bolleurs
“Wheeling and dealing is part of our daily life. But what if the ‘product’ bought or sold is not a spanner or a cell phone, but a living human being? Disturbing news came to the fore... apart from other places in the country, and for that matter all over the world, it was discovered that people are treated like commodities here in Bloemfontein as well,” said Adv. Beatri Kruger from the Unit for Children’s Rights at the University of the Free State (UFS).

Adv. Kruger was instrumental in completing and availing the first comprehensive Research Report on Human Trafficking in South Africa to the public on 23 March 2010. As a member of the Reference Group advising on interim research reports on human trafficking, she contributed to the report. The report proves to be an extremely valuable tool for, among others, government departments and non-governmental organisations that use it as a guideline in planning interventions to combat human trafficking.

The Unit for Children’s Rights is also one of the founding members of the Free State Human Trafficking Forum (FHF). To react on and fight the disturbing reality of human trafficking more efficiently, a number of concerned role players such as Child Welfare and other non-governmental organisations, police officials, prosecutors, social workers, health practitioners, private businesses, churches and community organisations joined forces and formed the FHF. The Unit for Children’s Rights hosts monthly meetings at the UFS to facilitate the coordination of this multi-disciplinary counter-trafficking team.

Adv. Kruger is very excited about some of the successes of the FHF; such as the story of Soma (not her real name). This Indian woman was recruited in India by an Indian couple who are staying in South Africa, by promising her a good job in South Africa. However, instead of finding the promised job, Soma was extensively exploited for labour purposes. With the help of a “good Samaritan” she managed to escape from the perpetrators and fled to the police. Soma was removed to ensure her safety and accommodated in a safe place in Bloemfontein. Counselling and other services were rendered to her by an organisation which is also a member of the FHF. One of the challenges facing Soma and the service providers was that Soma speaks a foreign dialect and for weeks a trusted interpreter could not be found.

This obstacle rendered communication with her to the bare minimum. The perpetrators were arrested but unfortunately the new comprehensive counter-trafficking law is not in force yet. Therefore the perpetrators could only be convicted of some offences in the Immigration Act. However, due to good police investigation followed by shrewd consultations, the perpetrators agreed to pay for the victim’s return flight to India as well as for the flight ticket of the investigating officer to escort her to safety. The Unit for Children’s Rights did networking with Ms Maria Nikolovska of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), who agreed to assist in the safe reintegration of Soma in India. Soma is now on her way back home.

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