Cape Town – President Jacob Zuma will ensure that Progeria sufferer Ontlametse Phalatse’s family gets the home he promised them.
Phalatse, who suffered from the rare genetic disorder which causes premature ageing, died on Wednesday morning. She was admitted to Dr George Mukhari Academic Hospital with breathing difficulties on Tuesday.
“A brave young fighter has fallen. May her spirit inspire all others living with disabilities or facing any difficulty, to soldier on as she did and live life to the fullest. We are really proud of her,” Zuma said in a statement.
Doctors had initially expected her to live until the age of 14. On March 25, she celebrated her 18th birthday. Two days before that she fulfilled her dream of meeting Zuma. He surprised Phalatse with a basket of flowers and a cake at his Mahlamba Ndlopfu Presidential Guest House in Pretoria.
Ontlametse was the only known black woman born with Progeria.
Zuma had invited her and her mother to celebrate his 75th birthday with him on Wednesday, the Presidency said. Zuma shares his birthday with Phalatse’s mother, Bellone Phalatse.
“Our lives were most touched by meeting Ontlametse last month,” Zuma said.
“She was very special indeed. I was impressed by her sharp intellect, warm personality, brilliant ideas and her determination to use her condition to motivate others that they can achieve their goals regardless of any challenges.”
He conveyed his condolences to her mother, her family, and the young woman’s trust.
Last month, the Jacob Zuma Foundation agreed to help meet some of Phalatse’s wishes by joining forces with the Ontlametse Phalatse Trust.
One of her biggest wishes was to own a home.
On Wednesday, Zuma said he would fulfil his undertaking to help the family get their own house.