No food, water or a way to use the bathroom for over 10 hours as a student gets stuck in a South Point residence lift.

A first-year Wits University student spent over 10 hours stuck by himself in a lift in a residence building in Braamfontein on Wednesday, March 4. 

Cebolenkosi Nhlabathi, a computer science student, found himself stuck in the lift in South Point Clifton Heights after making his way to his 8th floor room at 9:20pm.  “I left school hoping that I’m going to get to my building [room], eat and sleep.”

“As soon as it got to my floor, the door literally just jammed as it was about to open. It was kind of scary,” said Nhlabathi. 

Nhlabathi says he tried to physically open the door himself and pressed the emergency bell multiple times but received no response. “When it was close to midnight, I started pressing the bell button more often because I was getting frustrated. I was angry at that point.” Nhlabathi said he, “had a little bit of water which I drank and then used the bottle [for the bathroom].”

Nhlabathi used his cellphone to message his roommate who only saw the message in the morning. “The roommate then alerted our front desk officers, who sought assistance for the student,” said South Point.  

South Point, told Wits Vuvuzela that the lift’s button-activated alarms were tested after the incident and all alarms were functioning and clearly audible. “It would be near-impossible for someone not to hear the alarm if an emergency button was pressed,” said South Point.

According to South Point, the standard procedure for lift malfunctions is that, “if someone is stuck in a lift, our contracts dictate that we must have on-site support within 45 to 60 minutes – that is, a technician from the lift company must [be] on site to assist, once requested.”

South Point explains that they might have not been aware that a student was stuck in the lift because Clifton Heights has two lifts and given that the incident took place at night, there is a lower late-night traffic volume. Therefore according to them, “If a passenger pressed a lift button for the first lift, the second lift would have arrived relatively quickly; there would be no basis for anyone to perceive that the first lift was malfunctioning.”

Nhlabathi was eventually released from the lift close to 8am the next morning when a front desk officer knocked on the lift door. “I heard a voice shouting ‘is someone in there’ and I was like ‘yes, someone is in here’, and the person said they were going to call central and they’re going to get me out”, said Nhlabathi.

Nhlabathi is set to meet with South Point on April 7, to discuss the possibility of moving out of the building as he now finds it difficult to use the lifts. 

“I don’t use the lifts at Clifton anymore and on campus I’m also a bit scared to get into the lifts,” he said. 

FEATURED IMAGE: The South Point Central offices in Braamfontein. Photo: Zainab Patel