#RIPOntlametse: Goodbye to the First Lady of Hope

Harare – My original encounter with Onlametse Phalatse was in 2010. Back then, I was a health correspondent based in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal.

An assignment on rare or orphan diseases directed me to Onlametse – the only known black woman with such a disorder. Her uncommon condition called Progeria deemed that she will die young, yet she remained focused, spurring many, including myself.

Derick Matsengarwodzi
A heroic teen in all proportions, she was not wary of her imminent end. As one of the two young South African girls living with Progeria, she presented herself with unusual esteem until her anticipated death.
The Later Ontlametse and President Jacob Zuma

“She was very special indeed. I was impressed by her sharp intellect, warm personality, brilliant ideas and her determination to use her condition to motivate others that they can achieve their goals regardless of any challenges,” professed President Jacob Zuma, after meeting Ontlametse on her 18th birthday.

Her exhibited rare genetic disorder in which symptoms resembling aspects of aging manifesting at a very early age, but that never drained her omnipresent courage.

Appearing on television years back, she was a bundle of ecstasy, parading her endeavours with gusto. She was an inspiration to those who lost hope of life, yet they have a full life ahead of them, unlike Onlametse.

Her Facebook Page pronounced her demise, sending her followers into deep lament.

“It is with great sadness to inform you of the passing of our first lady, Ontlametse Ntlami Phalatse. She experienced breathing difficulties yesterday and was rushed to Hebron Clinic. The doctors did everything possible to save her but unfortunately she passed on. She was surrounded by her mother, brother, family members and friends.”

Though many knew this day would come, her death sent us into a deep reflection, transporting South Africa into profound sorrow. As of publishing, my soul is still wandering far off, still searching if this world would locate rare characters like Ontlametse, who live short lives, but transform humanity for eternity.

Disabilities never limited her goals to blossom. Her diminutive, positive stature catapulted her beyond tests often overcrowding humanity. Expected to live until 14, she disobeyed life to reach 18 years.

As tributes poured in, I join her family in grieving a worthy hero.

“We will miss you sorely, Tsontso, our first lady. May you find eternal peace among the angels? Rest in Peace Ntlami,” her family added.

Indeed, the world has been deprived of a young fighter who bequeathed hope to the disabled community, displaying that it is possible to laugh in times of sickness, while living life to the fullest.

She was an undisputed champion of optimism as radio personality Tbo Touch tweeted.

#RIPOntlametse thank you for inviting me to your home, your school and you taught me how to live abundantly. You will always be a Champion.”

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