© 2014 Mthethwa et al. Background: Medicinal plants represent an important opportunity to rural communities in Africa, as a source of affordable medicine and as a source of income. Increased patient awareness about safe usage is important as well as more training with regards to traditional medicine. The aim of this study was to evaluate the ethnomedicinal prowess of some indigenous South African plants commonly used in Eastern Cape Province of South Africa for the treatment of skin and respiratory tract infections, HIV and their toxicity potential. Methods: Cassine transvaalensis, Vangueria infausta, Croton gratissimus and Vitex ferruginea were tested for antibacterial activities against Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus epidermidis using Kirby-Bauer disk diffusion and minimum inhibition concentration (MIC). Cytotoxic and anti-HIV-1 activities of plants were tested using MTT Assay (3-(Dimethylthiozole-2-yl-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide)) and anti- HIV-1iib assay. In search of bioactive lead compounds, Cassine transvaalensis which was found to be the most active plant extract against the two Staphylocoous bacteria was subjected to various chromatographic. Thin layer chromatography, Column chromatography and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), (1H-1H, 13C-13C, in DMSO_d6, Bruker 600 MHz) were used to isolate and characterize 3-Oxo-28-hydroxylbetuli-20(29)-ene and 3,28-dihydroxylbetuli-20(29)-ene bioactive compounds from C. transvaalensis. Results: The four plants studied exhibited bioactive properties against the test isolates. The zones of inhibition ranged between 16 mm to 31 mm for multi-drug resistant staphylococci species. MIC values varied between 0.6 and 0.02 μg/ml. C. gratissimus and C. transvaalensis exhibited the abilities to inhibit HIV-1iib. Two bioactive compounds were isolated from C. transvaalensis. Conclusion: Data from this study reveals the use of these plant by traditional healers in the Eastern Cape. Furthermore, C. transvaalensis and C. gratissimus were found to be more active as against HIV-1iib. While C. transvaalensis was most active against the two Staphylococcus bacteria.