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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

Nigeria’s Boko Haram: Why negotiations are not an option
2014-10-23



There has been much speculation if the recently announced ceasefire in Nigeria as well as talks with Boko Haram will indeed secure the release of about 200 girls kidnapped by this religious militant group.

Talks already started between the government and Boko Haram but there are still doubts if the girls will be freed and if the Nigerian government can successfully negotiate with Boko Haram. Prof Hussein Solomon, Senior Professor at the University of the Free State, regards this current negotiations as a terrible idea.

“At a time when Boko Haram’s strength is escalating, the correlatory weakness of the Nigerian government is increasingly exposed. As Nigerians prepare for the next presidential elections, embattled President Goodluck Jonathan is increasingly desperate to negotiate with Boko Haram to secure the release of schoolgirls seized by the terrorists earlier this year and to negotiate a ceasefire. This is a terrible idea. It makes a mockery of the rule of law and of the thousands of innocent victims of the militant violence. More importantly, it will only serve to fuel the terrorists’ ambitions further as the powerlessness of the government is exposed.”

Prof Solomon says religious intolerance is on the rise on the African continent, with a concomitant rise in terrorist incidents. In Algeria, extremist terrorism carries the name of Jund al Khilafah or Caliphate Soldiers in Algeria. In Mali it is Ansar Dine or Defenders of the Faith. In Somalia it is Al Shabaab (The Youth). But none of these organisations come close to the carnage wrought by Nigeria’s Boko Haram (literally meaning Western education is forbidden).

Boko Haram has carried out more than 1 000 attacks since 2010, which has resulted in the deaths of 10 000 people and a further 6 million affected by this terrorist violence. The 300 000 Nigerian refugees who have fled this tsunami of terrorism and have sought refuge in neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger, provide adequate testimony to the human costs of such terrorism. Boko Haram, meanwhile, has formed tactical alliances with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Al Shabaab and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which means that the groups are sharing intelligence, tactics and material support. This cooperation has also resulted in increasingly sophisticated terror attacks mounted by Boko Haram.

Read more about Prof Solomon and his research.


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