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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

UN-recognised scholar awarded the prestigious TRI Annual PhD Award
2015-11-09

Dr Anneli Botha, winner of TRI Award for Best Doctoral Thesis.
Photo: Supplied

Two years after enrolling as a PhD candidate in the University of the Free State’s (UFS) Department of Political Studies and Governance, Dr Anneli Botha was awarded the annual Terrorism Research Initiative (TRI) Award for the 'Best Doctoral Thesis on Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism' (2014).

The TRI PhD award is a prestigious international honour, while terrorism as a scholarly venture remains a concentrated field. Dr Botha, one of the few women in this niche field, has proved to be an excellent asset. Her winning of the prestigious award was announced in its October 2015 issue of Perspectives on Terrorism (PT), a globally-circulated online journal, co-published by the European-based Terrorism Research Initiative and the America-based Center for Terrorism and Security Studies.

Based on the merit and relevance of her outstanding research, the United Nations Development Programme has appointed Dr Botha as a Consultant on Radicalisation. In addition, her PhD is to be published as a book in the United States of America early in 2016. She was appointed as a Research Associate at the University of the Free State at the beginning of this year.

An award-winning search for answers

Her thesis, titled “Radicalisation to Terrorism in Kenya and Uganda: a Political Socialisation Perspective”, tackled East African militancy, from an individualised perspective. Researchers in the past have neglected assessing details of the rebels’ childhoods. Dr Botha’s interviewed about 285 militants and their families. These individuals declared themselves openly as members of al-Shabaab and the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) in Kenya, and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda, at the time of the interviews.

Her doctoral dissertation provides significant information about factors that should be considered in the quest to counter and prevent terrorism. Her research shows conclusively that political socialisation begins with the family, and expands through peers, school, media, and earlier political experiences, culminating in the terrorist group.

Outstanding piece of scholarship

Dr Alex Schmid
, who is the editor of PT, TRI Award Jury chairman, and one of the most respected experts of terrorism, described Dr Botha’s research as an “outstanding piece of scholarship.”

Dr Botha attributed her success to her supervisors - Professors Theo Neethling and Hussein Solomon - as well as to the people in Kenya and Uganda.

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