‘First lady’ Ont­lametse a fighter to the end

Vuk'uzenzele - - Sport, Arts & Culture -

Ont­lametse pha­latse, the first black wo­man in the world di­ag­nosed with the ag­ing dis­ease proge­ria, has been praised for her coura­geous spirit and the in­spi­ra­tion she gave to oth­ers.

afighter to the end is how many have de­scribed Ont­lametse Pha­latse, the dy­namic young wo­man known for her brave bat­tle with proge­ria

Proge­ria is a rare ge­netic con­di­tion that causes chil­dren to age rapidly. It is of­ten fa­tal, and claimed Pha­latse just af­ter her 18th birth­day.

Pha­latse used to call her­self the First Lady, be­cause she was the first black wo­man in the world to be di­ag­nosed with this dis­ease.

De­spite the phys­i­cal toll on her body, she re­mained a pos­i­tive in­spi­ra­tion through­out her life.

Af­ter ex­pe­ri­enc­ing breath­ing dif­fi­cul­ties she was rushed to He­bron Clinic, and then re­ferred to Dr Ge­orge Mukhari Hos­pi­tal, where her life ended.

‘We will miss you sorely’

The Pha­latse fam­ily and Ont­lametse Pha­latse Trust thanked nurses and staff for their com­pas­sion and ef­fort in try­ing to save her.

“Our hearts are filled with pain and sad­ness but Ont­lametse as we know her would want us to carry on with her coura­geous spirit,” the Ont­lametse Pha­latse Trust said in a state­ment. “We will miss you sorely, Tsontso, our first lady. May you find eter­nal peace among the an­gels. Rest in peace.”

Ont­lametse's mother, Bel­lon Pha­latse, says her baby was born look­ing nor­mal. But she re­alised early on that some­thing was wrong. The baby suf­fered con­stant rashes, and Bel­lon thought she had a skin dis­ease.

Af­ter Pha­latse was di­ag­nosed with proge­ria doc­tors did not think she would live to see her 14th birth­day. But in March this year she turned 18, af­ter fin­ish­ing her ma­tric.

Meet­ing the Pres­i­dent

One of Pha­latse's dreams was to meet Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma. On the eve of her birth­day that dream came true at the Mahlamba Nd­lopfu pres­i­den­tial res­i­dence.

Dur­ing their chat, Pres­i­dent Zuma came to learn of the chal­lenges Pha­latse faced. He of­fered to as­sist her and her fam­ily. Af­ter the meet­ing Pha­latse thanked those who had sup­ported her through the years.

‘A dy­namic lady’

At Pha­latse’s fu­neral in He­bron in North West, crowds of peo­ple gath­ered in a large mar­quee to hear Pres­i­dent Zuma speak in her hon­our.

He said she walked tall, de­spite her proge­ria.

“I looked for­ward to see­ing her,” he said of their meet­ing. “I had my own men­tal pic­ture of her. That changed when she came to visit me. She walked proudly and she shook my hand. She sat proudly on her chair.

“She was a dy­namic lady,” said Pres­i­dent Zuma.

The Pres­i­dent added that Pha­latse talked non-stop.

“You wouldn’t ask her a ques­tion be­cause she would an­swer be­fore you had asked the ques­tion. She was very bright,” he said.

Mem­o­ries of Pha­latse

At his meet­ing with Pha­latse, she had ex­pressed her wish for a car and a home for her and her mother. The Pres­i­dent said Pha­latse had spo­ken about the chal­lenges of hav­ing to use pub­lic trans­port when go­ing to her doc­tor’s ap­point­ments in Jo­han­nes­burg

“She had wished for a house and car. I in­di­cated to her that I have a Trust and a Foun­da­tion,” the Pres­i­dent said at her fu­neral. He said that when he in­vited her to cel­e­brate his up­com­ing 75th birth­day on 12 April, he had planned to sur­prise her with the car she needed.

“I wanted to give her the car on my birth­day, but lit­tle did I know that God had made a de­ci­sion. Death is a se­cret only known by God. I was shocked. She was healthy,” he said.

A memo­rial ser­vice for Pha­latse was held at He­bron Col­lege, Man­otsi High School.

Among those who came to pay their last re­spects were So­cial De­vel­op­ment Deputy Min­is­ter Hen­dri­etta Bo­gopane-Zulu and North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo.

(Photo: GCIS)

Ont­lametse Pha­latse cel­e­brated her 18th with Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma shortly be­fore her pass­ing.

(Photo: GCIS)

Hun­dreds of peo­ple who had been in­spired by her per­son­al­ity gath­ered to pay their last re­spects to Ont­lametse Pha­latse in He­bron.

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