Picture: ANA Pictures
Picture: ANA Pictures
The programme for the memorial service held in Hebron for the late Ontlametse Phalatse. Picture: @b_masilela/ANA
The programme for the memorial service held in Hebron for the late Ontlametse Phalatse. Picture: @b_masilela/ANA
Pretoria – Instead of tears and sadness, the hall was filled with songs of jubilation, thanksgiving and drums playing in the background as family and community members celebrated the life of the late Ontlametse Phalatse during a memorial service held on Wednesday.

The hall was filled to capacity, some people were standing and others sat on the tiled floor. Celebrities and government officials including Deputy Minister of Social Development Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu were amongst the guests.

Ontlametse was one of the two South African young women living with Progeria, an extremely rare genetic disorder of rapid ageing at a very early age. Beandri Booysen, a 11-year-old girl also living with Progeria, who was also Ontlametse's friend sat on her mother's lap and wept uncontrollably after she was introduced to the crowds.

Her tears prompted Ontlametse's mother to start crying. All the speakers who went on stage spoke highly of Ontlamese and said they don't recall the little girl feeling sorry for herself and wanting pity from people, instead they said they were left encouraged by her vibrant personality.

Children from Hebron Primary School sang to pay tribute to Ontlametse. The school is one of those which had been adopted by Ontlametse to assist. School principal Thami Dyani said he was amazed when Ontlametse organised a meeting with the MEC after a day they had met.

"A day after that, I was amazed a certain lady from the MEC's office...She called me to say we are from the MEC's office and they are coming on Friday....On Friday she came, she came with her friends, and provided sanitary pads for our children."

The principal said after that the school decided to name her Mphoentle which means a beautiful gift.

"On the very same day, she adopted the school and said she will be back in no time to offer more assitance. She promised to fix the infrastructure and also get the school a sporting center."

Graham Howarth, principal at Dominican Convent School, the high school Ontlametse attended, said even though she knew that her life expectancy was limited, she lived a full life and showed most people how to live.

"She taught us that a shorter life expectancy is no barrier to having a full and very productive life. She showed us on a daily basis that it is your strength of character that defines the quality of your life."

Johanna Maswanganyi from the Department of Human Settlements said she had visited Ontlametse's home a day before she passed away. She said the department will fulfil its promise and build Ontlametse's mother a house. Ontlametse's wished was to see her family living in a decent house and having a car.

Last Wednesday, during his birthday celebration, President Jacob Zuma presented Ontlametse's family with a car. Ontlametse passed away last Tuesday, at the Dr George Mukhari Academic Hospital in Ga-Rankuwa after experiencing breathing difficulties.

Doctors did not think she would live to see her 14th birthday, but on March 25 she turned 18 after finishing her matric.

Zuma spent a day last month with Ontlametse to celebrate her 18th birthday.

It was in 2009, that she was diagnosed and told she would not live beyond the age of 14. The disorder leaves those suffering from it unable to reach their mid teens and very rarely reaching their 20s. The funeral will take place on Friday at Ontlametse's home, Stand 696 Motseng Section, Hebron Village from 6:30- 10am.