The Tower of Trouble

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In the heart of Johannesburg, there is probably no building more notorious than Ponte City. The cylindrical tower with a hollow core was built in the 1970s as luxury apartments only for whites. In the ensuing decades, as whites decamped to the suburbs, Ponte became a symbol of urban decay, overrun by drug dealers and gangs and dubbed “suicide central” because of the number of people who chose to end their lives by hurling themselves off the tower.

The Tower of Trouble has been renovated over the years and middle class families and young professionals have moved in. A few whites have too, mostly occupying the upper floors. In a nod to its location in what is still one of the most dangerous parts of town, the new Ponte has been turned into something of a fortress. Security is extremely tight and there are severe restrictions on visitors.