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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

Nat Nakasa the inspiration behind UFS academic’s PhD thesis
2017-01-09

 Description: 001 Dr Willemien Marais Tags: 001 Dr Willemien Marais

Photo: Supplied

“I’m interested in alternative ways of approaching things, so I wanted to look at how journalism can be used in an unconventional way to contribute to a developing society.”

This is why Dr Willemien Marais, a lecturer in the Department of Communication Science at the University of the Free State (UFS), decided to title her thesis: Nat Nakasa as existential journalist, describing a form of journalism that places emphasis on the individual’s experiences.

“Existentialism is a philosophy that provides scope for an individual approach to life, and I like Nat Nakasa’s writing because of his excellent sense of humour despite his horrific circumstances as a black journalist during apartheid,” she says.

A practical approach to writing

Dr Marais analysed Nat Nakasa’s approach to journalism through articles he wrote in the early 1960s. She searched for relevant themes of existentialist philosophy in Nakasa’s work in order to prove that he could be read as an existential journalist.

She mentions that in terms of contemporary relevance, Nakasa’s approach to journalism suggests that existentialism could provide the journalist with a practical approach to writing, especially for those journalists working in developing societies.

“The relevance of this approach lies in the fact that any society is always between things – the old and the new – which might require the journalist to operate outside the boundaries of conventional journalism.”

This study was qualitative in nature because of the interpretation required. She mentions that it was basically one of many possible interpretations of Nakasa’s work; with this one using existentialism as a lens.

An intellectually stimulating thesis

Dr Marais quotes French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre, who said that interpreting someone’s work, especially someone who was no longer alive, was open to “thousands of shimmering, iridescent, relevant meanings”, and her research represents one of these possible meanings of Nakasa’s work as a journalist.

When asked how long she had worked on her thesis, Dr Marais simply answered “too long!” She mentions that her thesis was initially more of an intellectual exercise. Whereas the actual act of writing took about four months, she spent many years thinking about the topic. “Now that all is said and done, I realise I had to grow into the topic. It took me a while to realise that true understanding does not come overnight!”

Dr Marais mentions that other than herself and the work of Nat Nakasa, there were no other roleplayers involved. “For many, many years it was just Nat Nakasa and I. It was frustrating and exhilarating all at the same time.”

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