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Constructed in 1975, the 400-plus apartments were “the” place to live when it opened. The one we meet in, on the 50th floor, is 120-square-meters (rental R6,000 a month) and was one floor of a former triplex, which also once had a sauna.
The tour of the 54-storey building and the surrounding area – Berea and Hillbrow – is run by a nonprofit group called Dlala Nje.
However, let’s get the horror stories we’ve all heard about Ponte out of the way first.
It was called Suicide City because of the number of people who jumped off it, on the inside and the outside.
Members of middle class, who are predominantly white but whose ranks include growing numbers of people of colour, have lifestyles similar in many respects to that of people found in Western Europe, North America and Australia.
Indian South Africans preserve their cultural heritage, languages and religious beliefs, being either Christian, Hindu or Muslim and speaking English, with Indian languages like Hindi, Telugu, Tamil or Gujarati being spoken less frequently as second languages.
Today it’s become a model for the regeneration and revitalisation of the inner city that is going on – from Braamfontein to Maboneng and now here.
Things got so bad that Ponte became one of Johannesburg’s “hijacked” buildings, run by illegal landlords. A husband-and-wife team, Elma and Danie Celliers, were put in charge and hired red ants to come in and evacuate all the illegal residents.
A massive renovation programme began, which included refurbishing the eight elevators.
Vodacom pays R500,000 a month to put its sign on the roof, and movie producers pay R100,000 a day to shoot in the core.
To go on one of Dlala Nje’s tours of Ponte City and Hillbrow contact them here.
Started by ex-Mail & Guardian journalist Nickolas Bauer and Mike Luptak, profits from the tours are used to fund a creche on the ground floor of Ponte, as well as other programmes to benefit the community.