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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

Students receive hands-on crime scene investigation training
2016-09-02

Description: Crime scene investigation training Tags: Crime scene investigation training

Ntau Mafisa, a forensic science honours student
at the UFS, and Captain Samuel Sethunya from
the SAPS Crime Scene Management in
Bloemfontein.
Photo: Leonie Bolleurs

With murder and robbery rates on the rise, the Forensic Science Programme of the Department of Genetics at the University of the Free State is playing a key role in training South Africa’s future crime scene investigators and forensic laboratory analysts.

According to the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), murder and aggravated robbery rates for 2014/2015, as recorded by the South African Police Services (SAPS) have increased. Incidents of murder increased by 4.6% in the period from 2013/2014 to 2014/2015 and aggravated robbery increased by 8.5 % in the same period. The ISS is an African organisation thant enhances human security by providing independent and authoritative research, expert policy advice and capacity building.

Dr Ellen Mwenesongole, a forensic science lecturer at the Department of Genetics, said the university was one of a few universities in South Africa that actually had a forensic science programme, especially starting from undergraduate level.

Crime scene evaluation component incorporated in curriculum
As part of its Forensic Science Honours Programme, the department has, for the first time, incorporated a mock crime scene evaluation component in its curriculum. Students process a mock crime scene and are assessed based on how closely they follow standard operating procedures related to crime scenes and subsequent laboratory analysis of items of possible evidential value.

The mock crime scene forms part of a research project data collection of the honours students. In these projects students utilise different analytical methods to analyse and distinguish between different types of evidence such as hair fibres, cigarette butts, illicit drugs and dyes extracted from questioned documents and lipsticks.

Students utilise different analytical methods to analyse
and distinguish between different types of evidence.

This year, the department trained the first group of nine students in the Forensic Science Honours Programme. Dr Mwenesongole, who received her training in the UK at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, and Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, England, said incorporating a crime scene evaluation component into the curriculum was a global trend at universities that were offering forensic science programmes.

Department of Genetics and SAPS collaborate
It is important to add this component to the student’s curriculum. In this way the university is equipping students not only with theoretical knowledge but practical knowledge on the importance of following proper protocol when collecting evidence at crime scenes and analysing it in the laboratory to reduce the risk of it becoming inadmissible in a court of law.

The Genetics Department has a good working relationship with the Forensic Science Laboratory and Free State Crime Scene Management of the Division Forensic Services of the SAPS. The mock crime scene was set up and assessed in collaboration with the Crime Scene Management Division of the SAPS. Although the SAPS provides specialist advanced training to its staff members, the university hopes to improve employability for students through such programmes.

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