South Africa mourns the death of Ontlametse Phalatse

A woman who captured the hearts of many South Africans for her brave battle against premature aging disorder progeria has died aged 18.

Doctors had said Ontlametse Phalatse would not make it past the age of 14.

President Jacob Zuma was among those who conveyed their condolences to the family of “the special child of South Africa”. She was known as the “First Lady” by her friends and family.

Local broadcaster Enca called her the country’s “champion of positivity”.

In a tribute her family wrote: “We will miss you sorely, Tsontso, our first lady. May you find eternal peace among the angels. Rest in Peace”.

She called herself the first lady because she was the first black woman in South Africa to be diagnosed with progeria.

What is Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome?

  • A genetic condition characterized by the dramatic, rapid appearance of aging beginning in childhood
  • Affected children typically look normal at birth and in early infancy
  • Later grow more slowly than other children and do not gain weight at the expected rate
  • Affects 1 in 4 million
  • Caused by a genetic mutation
  • Parents who have a child with progeria, have a 2-3% chance of having another child with the condition
  • Average life expectancy is about 13 years
  • There is no cure.

Sources: NHS,