President Jacob Zuma on Friday said that if he was a journalist he would focus on human interest stories such as the story of the helpful neighbour to Ontlametse Phalatse, who was one of two young women in South Africa living with Progeria, instead of concentrating on making headlines “starting with the letter Z”.
“This neighbour is a good neighbour … people should take an example from her … If I was a journalist I would focus on human interest stories and stop focusing on headlines which start with the letter Z,” said the president in apparent reference to recent headlines of anti-Zuma marches across the country, and other unflattering stories about the president.
Zuma was speaking at Phalatse’s funeral in Hebron, north of Pretoria, where hundreds gathered to pay their last respects to the brave young lady.
Last week on Tuesday Phalatse lost her battle to the rare genetic disorder progeria, which causes premature ageing. She died at Dr George Mukhari Academic Hospital after experiencing breathing difficulties.
At the funeral, Zuma recalled the day he met Ontlametse – it was her 18th birthday, on 25 March. She had wanted to meet the president and he obliged her wish.
“We immediately connected; she walked proudly when we met. She was articulate and bright,” Zuma said.
Phalatse, who doctors had predicted would not live beyond the age of 14, also wished to see her family living in a decent house and having a car.
Last Wednesday during Zuma’s 75th birthday celebrations, he presented Phalatse’s family with a car. Zuma also said the presidency will fulfil her wish and build her mother a house.
Family, friends and community members attended the funeral in large numbers.