Man jumps off Hillbrow building

FILE PICTURE: An aerial view of Johannesburg, including the Ponte Tower and the Hillbrow Tower. Picture by Michel Bega

The man who jumped off the cylinder-shaped Ponte apartment building in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, on Monday was a tenant who lived alone, Gauteng police said.

The 55-year-old plunged to his death from the 33rd floor of the tallest residential scraper in Africa, Constable Thabo Malatjie said.

“The reason [for him jumping] was still unknown but an inquest docket has been opened.”

Several suicides have occurred at the 54-storey building since its construction in 1975, but the exact figures are unknown.

At one point, Ponte was labelled “suicide central” as scores of people leapt to their deaths from its balconies.

According to the City of Johannesburg, the 173m high building, which boasts 360 degree views of the city, has 470 flats, some them furnished. At the top of the building is a flashing advertisement for cellphone service provider, Vodacom. According to an article published by the Mail&Guardian in 2012 the sign, which has 11km of neon tubing, will dominate the skyline until 2015. The contract reportedly brings in R500,000 a month.

On its website, the city said the Ponte was one of the most desirable places to live in after its construction. By the late 1980s however it was no longer the “it” place to live in Johannesburg. The area in which it is located, on the edge of Hillbrow and Yeoville, became a breeding ground for crime, drug lords, and prostitutes.

The value of the building and the area took a plunge in the 1990s and it was suggested that it be turned into a prison. The call was rejected.

Another problem is that because the building is cylindrical, residents have been throwing rubbish down the inside of the structure. In the early 2000s clean-up efforts began and a strict security system was put in place.

Currently the building houses people from a variety of backgrounds, locals and foreigners, singles and families, the poor and the middle class. The building has been used as a set for several movies.


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