Zuma celebrates 18th birthday with SA’s only black female progeria sufferer

President Zuma with Ontlametse Phalatse.

President Zuma with Ontlametse Phalatse.

The disease ages those who have it prematurely, but Ontlametse remains hopeful and young of heart.

Ontlametse Phalatse, who will soon be celebrating her 18th birthday over the weekend, had one of her wishes come true when she enjoyed a jovial visit with President Jacob Zuma at his Mahlamba Ndlopfu Presidential House in the Bryntirion Estate in Pretoria on Thursday.

She is the only black female in South Africa diagnosed with progeria, a rare disease that causes children to age rapidly. A walking miracle, it was predicted she would only live until the age of 14, but she has beaten the odds.

Zuma surprised Ontlametse with a basket filled with flowers and a big cake as a pre-birthday celebration. He even helped her cut her cake while everybody was singing “happy birthday” to her.

Ontlametse recently dislocated her hips and is walking with the help of crutches.



Zuma said: “One of her wishes was to have this day (with him). We indeed had an encounter today and I am honoured we had a very nice discussion. I said let met me organise a cake, even if the birthday is not necessarily today.”

Ontlametse said she was honoured to have spent time with the president.

“We had a lovely talk, chat, a private one, and I am really, really happy about all the things that we discussed and I hope it comes true.

“I am really honoured that he bought me a cake for my birthday and I am excited to have a slice of it.

“I am out of words, I was so nervous, but he (the president) is a lovely person and easy to communicate with and is down to earth. May God bless him,” Ontlametse said.

She was accompanied by her mother, Bellon Phalatse, and Advocate Bonginkosi Ngubane from the Ontlametse Phalatse Trust.

Zuma said Ontlametse was very clear in what her wishes were and one of them was that she and her mother own a home. He said the Jacob Zuma Foundation would work with the trust to ensure this becomes a reality.

“We will also talk to the department of human settlements or social development as well,” Zuma said.

He said the second-biggest wish was to get the family a car.

“At times she has to go to Johannesburg for medical attention and we said well, particularly given her condition and also that state doctors should tend to her needs,” Zuma said.

He added that his foundation would also work with Ontlametse’s trust in helping with her trips to the United States for medical research.

Ngubane said there was only R31 000 in the trust and Ontlametse had many special needs.

“She is suffering a lot.

“Her mother stopped working because she could not leave the child at home and go to work. He said Ontlametse was known to be a celebrity, but when you go to her home, she has nothing. If you can go there, you will be shocked,” he said.


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