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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 research sheds light on service delivery protests in South Africa
2015-01-23

UFS research sheds light on service delivery protests in South Africa

Service delivery protests in the country have peaked during 2014, with 176 major service delivery protests staged against local government across South Africa.

A study by the University of the Free State (UFS) found that many of these protests are led by individuals who previously held key positions within the ANC and prominent community leaders. Many of these protests involved violence, and the destruction had a devastating impact on the communities involved.

This study was done by Dr Sethulego Matebesi, researcher and senior lecturer at the UFS. He focused his research on the dynamics of service delivery protests in South Africa.

Service delivery protests refer to the collective taken by a group of community members which are directed against a local municipality over poor or inadequate provision of basic services, and a wider spectrum of concerns including, for example, housing, infrastructural developments, and corruption.

These protests increased substantially from about 10 in 2004 to 111 in 2010, reaching unprecedented levels with 176 during 2014.

The causes of these protests are divided into three broad categories: systemic (maladministration, fraud, nepotism and corruption); structural (healthcare, poverty, unemployment and land issues); and governance (limited opportunities for civic participation, lack of accountability, weak leadership and the erosion of public confidence in leadership).

In his research, Dr Matebesi observed and studied protests in the Free State, Northern Cape and the North-West since 2008. He found that these protests can be divided into two groups, each with its own characteristics.

“On the one side you have highly fragmented residents’ groups that often use intimidation and violence in predominantly black communities. On the other side, there are highly structured ratepayers’ associations that primarily uses the withholding of municipal rates and taxes in predominantly white communities.”

 

Who are the typical protesters?

Dr Matebesi’s study results show that in most instances, protests in black areas are led by individuals who previously held key positions within the ANC - prominent community leaders. Generally, though, protests are supported by predominantly unemployed, young residents.

“However, judging by election results immediately after protests, the study revealed that the ANC is not losing votes over such actions.”

The study found that in the case of the structured ratepayers’ associations, the groups are led by different segments of the community, including professionals such as attorneys, accountants and even former municipal managers.

Dr Matebesi says that although many protests in black communities often turned out violent, protest leaders stated that they never planned to embark on violent protests.

“They claimed that is was often attitude (towards the protesters), reaction of the police and the lack of government’s interest in their grievances that sparked violence.”

Totally different to this is the form of peaceful protests that involves sanctioning. This requires restraint and coordination, which only a highly structured group can provide.

“The study demonstrates that the effects of service delivery protests have been tangible and visible in South Africa, with almost daily reports of violent confrontations with police, extensive damage to property, looting of businesses, and at times, the injuring or even killing of civilians. With the increase of violence, the space for building trust between the state and civil society is decreasing.”

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