About Hillbrow

Hillbrow is situated in Johannesburg, in Gauteng, South Africa. Show on Map

Gauteng DestinationsHillbrow, Johannesburg

Hillbrow gets mixed reviews. On the one hand people won't go near it. They speak about extreme levels of crime, high-rise apartment blocks jammed with migrants and refugees, hijackings, murder and prostitution.

Hillbrow, they say, is a place of alarming crime statistics and new year parties where couches, fridges and TVs get thrown out of windows. An inner-city lawlessness reigns unchecked. Some call it the crime capital of the city.

BBC Two ran a documentary in 2007, called Law and Disorder in Johannesburg revealing the state of lawlessness in parts of the city, particularly Hillbrow; Lauren Beukes' Zoo City, is set in Hillbrow.

On the other hand, others remember it differently. During apartheid, and predominantly a white neighbourhood, it was known for its tolerance; regarded as one of the few 'grey' areas, where different ethnic communities hung out in a politically progressive and cosmopolitan society. It had a hip, artistic and creative community, and the streets buzzed until all hours.

And things have changed since 2007.

Now community initiatives try to curb crime and keep the streets clean, like Ekhaya Neighbourhood; walking tours are offered by organisations such as Dlala Nje, a regeneration programme trying to change the face of Hillbrow and Ponte - the tallest high-rise cylindrical building that dominates the inner city skyline, along with the Hillbrow Tower with its highly visible pink ball; the violent crime rate is down, and new year's celebrations are less chaotic.

Buildings have been reclaimed from their hijackers (groups of criminals who take over buildings from their landlords by force) and remodelled. But not all the buildings are safe, or clean. The improvement, whilst happening, is gradual.

Hillbrow relies heavily on civic partnership, policing forum volunteers and the community for its improvement as there is evidence of police corruption - drug deals go down in full sight of police vehicles, children play in parks whilst drug dealers do deals, prostitutes walk the streets.

The suburb is still troubled by poverty, overpopulation and crime.

As a visitor, get in touch with Dlala Nje, the Lutheran Community Outreach foundation, the Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust, or Joburg Places - for walking tours. It is not safe to walk through Hillbrow on your own, but those who have been say that if you get the opportunity, you should go.

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