'You get a car!' Zuma does an Oprah on his birthday

13 April 2017 - 09:03
By David Gernon And Naledi Shange
Bellon Phalatse with her daughter,  Ontlametse. Picture Credit: Lauren Mulligan
Bellon Phalatse with her daughter, Ontlametse. Picture Credit: Lauren Mulligan

Last month President Jacob Zuma met a young supporter‚ Ontlametse Phalatse‚ who was supposed to attend his birthday celebration on Wednesday night in Kliptown‚ Soweto.

Tragically‚ she died Tuesday night of progeria‚ a disease that causes rapid ageing.

Zuma had promised her a car for her 18th birthday. Making good on his promise‚ the president instead gave the car to her grieving mother.

“I agreed to buy her mother a car and house when we met last month‚” he said‚ speaking in IsiZulu.

Celebrities join in the outpouring of tributes to 'brave' OntlametseWell-known celebrities have joined the nation in paying tribute to 18-year-old Ontlametse Ntlami Phalatse‚ who died after a long battle with Progeria. 

“We had already bought the car and she was meant to receive it today. Her mom will still get the car and house.”

The grieving mother‚ whose birthday was also on Wednesday‚ then came out on the stage to applause from the crowd.

“We mourn with you‚” Zuma said. “And we will build your house as promised.”

The gift came about halfway through Zuma’s hour-long speech‚ in which he spoke about his life‚ current struggles and his future. The speech capped a night of raucous festivities‚ honouring the president on his 75th birthday.

Despite the anti-Zuma marches earlier in the day‚ the embattled president was seemingly in a good mood‚ cracking jokes and brushing off calls for him to step down.

“Stress is a white man’s disease‚” he said. “That is why there is no word for it in IsiZulu.”