In 2009, doctors diagnosed Ontlametse Phalatse with Progeria, a rare genetic condition that accelerates the body’s aging process, and estimated that she would not live beyond the age of 13. However, Ontlametse defied all expectations and celebrated her 18th birthday with South African President Jacob Zuma in Pretoria on Thursday. The meeting with the President followed relentless efforts by the diminutive lady through her Trust, the Ontlametse Trust. She had indicated that meeting the President was among the items on her bucket list.
Despite her condition, Ontlametse showed her bubbly and infectious personality during the meeting with the President. She proudly declared that she is the first black child with progeria. She said: “I call myself a first lady because I’m the first black child with this disease. Which other black child do you know with this disease?” President Zuma, who was visibly moved by Ontlametse’s story and personality, said: “She is so bubbly and articulate, a clear indication that she doesn’t feel pity for herself. I must say I am really inspired by her attitude and fighting spirit.”
Ontlametse recently completed her high school education and surprised many who thought she could not make it that far. She said her objective is to become a motivational speaker and life coach. However, members of her family said her Trust does not have enough financial support to cover all her medical and transport expenses and appealed to the South African government and public to help. President Zuma pledged that his Foundation will look into assisting the Ontlametse Trust.