South Africa: Johannesburg, Gauteng’s R84 billion (US $7.26 billion) smart city is coming

January 15, 2015

Africa, Business, International

Construction begins on Johannesburg mini city
Construction has started on a new Chinese financed R84 billion city in Modderfontein, Gauteng


By Anna Cox

JOHANNESBURG- Hope and imagination. These words are used to describe the R84 billion (US $7.26 billion) development being built in Modderfontein.

Despite widespread skepticism when the project was announced last year that it would never take off, work has started on a small scale in the new “city” of Zendai being developed in the area.

The first set of 300 residential units and some of the roads are under construction.

Zendai South Africa chief operating officer Du Wenhui said it was a 15- to 20-year project that would see between 30 000 and 50 000 housing units of different types and sizes, ultimately housing about 100 000 residents.

The skepticism, he said, arose because of the artists’ impression of the area showing numerous tall skyscrapers illustrating it as the new Manhattan of Africa.

Wenhui said the illustrations were of what the area could look like in 20 years.


“Hope and imagination are the key words here. The project will be market driven, and depending what our clients or developers want, the sky is the limit. Twenty years ago, nobody would have imagined that Sandton would look like it does today, with its multiple skyscrapers.”

The area will become a mini city with a town centre, churches, a library, hospital and medical facilities, a sports and international conference centre, a light industrial park, educational facilities and community offices, among others.

There will be new regional retail centres, low-cost housing and a tourism component that will include an African art museum.

Central to the development is the Gautrain’s Modderfontein station on the Sandton-airport route, which has been partially built.

Wenhui said consultants would be employed to start the design of the new station this year, but construction would probably not happen for at least the next three years.


The educational precinct will offer private schools and student accommodation, and includes a site for a government school.

The 275 hectare (679.5 acres) Modderfontein Reserve, which is open to the public, will be preserved.

“The focus is to establish an area which offers a safe, public environment in a smart city,” said Wenhui. “Security is paramount. We want to build a community here.”

Shanghai Zendai purchased the property from Heartlands, which runs explosives company AECI’s property portfolio.

The company scaled down its activities over the past years, no longer needing as much space as was formerly required.

The Shanghai Zendai project is one of the largest real estate deals concluded by a Chinese firm in South Africa.

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