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While the world comes out to celebrate the beginning of a new year, residents of Hillbrow in Johannesburg South Africa will stay indoors, thanks to an age old dangerous tradition.
On New Year’s Eve residents of the suburb get rid of their unwanted appliances by throwing them with reckless abandon from tall buildings. It is always a busy night for the local police force.
Although Hillbrow, which hosts Johanesburg’s infamous red-light district is not a war zone, on New Year’s Eve, the local police plans to deploy an arsenal of emergency units including helicopters, riot police, canine units and health centres among others.
Hillbrow has over the years nurtured this unusual custom which has grown into a somewhat gruesome, macabre celebration. And it is not uncommon to witness the flight of electrical appliances and even furniture, hauled through windows and doors of high rise buildings onto the streets or pavements.
Dicken Patwell, a 24 year old computer technician, claims to have dropped a whole bed off his balcony some years back. “We are getting rid of the old stuff, because we have new ones,” he said.
Another resident of the suburb, James Thomas does not accept that it is a dangerous tradition and argues that residents know that no one will come out. “We create work for people,” he says, referring to scrap metal and other recyclables collectors.
But local authorities have a different perspective as police forces are required to remain on alert throughout the night due to the danger and number of injuries that occur every year.
In some cases patrolling police forces have been pelted with objects. Last year alone, 14 of them were wounded.
And while the tradition seems to have simmered down in intensity in the past few years the police are leaving no stone unturned. Police spokesman, Tshisikhawe Ndou says that anticipating erratic behaviour on New Year’s Eve in Hillbrow is near to impossible.
“You never know what will happen,” he admits.
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