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History of Sandton

When established on the 1st of July 1969 Sandton was very much a residential area made up of a few suburbs of mainly small holdings. Little did the first town clerk , Bob Louttit, and first mayor, Alec Tweedale, know that Sandton would arguably become the economic hub of South Africa by the turn of the century.

Much has changed since those early days. Today the Municipality of Sandton no longer exists in it's old form - after South Africa's first democratic elections in 1994 all of the municipalities in greater Johannesburg were combined to form the Greater Johannesburg Metropolitan Council (GJMC). This meant that the municipalities of Johannesburg, Randburg, Roodepoort and Sandton were all amalgamated to form one single, centrally administrated municipal area. Having completed the transition phase, from 2001 the GJMC became one official "mega-city" and is now known as the City of Johannesburg.

There is much debate within the community and even national government as to whether the amalgamation of all of the old municipal areas was a sound economic and management move. Although Sandton has been forced to loose much of it’s individuality, Sandtonians are proud of our town’s heritage and prosperity.

The first white settlers in Sandton were not industrialists like the Bantu-speakers who preceded them, but farmers who left the then Cape Colony (Western Cape province) in organized groups in the mide-1830s in order to liberate themselves from British rule. The real thrust of white immigration into Gauteng began after Kwazulu-Natal was annexed by the British in 1843.

The Voortrekkers of Sandton were initially placed under the rule of the Pretoria landdrost or magistrate. The municipal area of Sandton is made up of parts of five Voortrekker freehold farms. The farms were laid out as follows :

  • Cyferfontain was closest to what is now the Johannesburg CBD
  • Zandfontein consisted of the area around Sandown and it’s environs
  • Driefontain was Parkmore and parts of Bryanston
  • Rietfontein comprised Rivonia and adjoining ares
  • Witkoppen was the most northerly farm

Sandton derives it’s name from Zandfontein – an English simplification of this Afrikaans name. A memorial stone on the graves of the Esterhuysen Voortrekker family (of the Zandfontein farm) still stands in the suburb of Strathavon (off South Rd).

The discovery of the rich gold bearing reef south of the Johannesburg CBD in 1886 brought many changes to Sandton. Land values increased and the old farms were subdivided and sold to developers. Economic opportunities arose and many of these small holdings supplied fresh produce to the goldfields.

The Sandton Town Council formally ended Sandton’s rural phase in 1979. The Council took a “more positive attitude towards development”. The rural ‘horsey’ lifestyle of Sandton gave it the image of being a ‘smart address’ : it was dubbed the ‘mink and manure’ belt of Johannesburg. These qualities proved very attractive and a new wave of residents came to Sandton. Development happened quickly, for the wide open spaces were a property developer’s paradise. Sandton became richer and larger and consequently yielded more power in local government. Today Sandton is indeed a powerful town – with the continued decentralization of many companies from the Johannesburg CBD to the attractive leafy Sandton CBD it continues to grow ever-more powerful. The prestigious Sandton City shopping mall opened in 1973; it was the first ‘modern shopping mall’ in South Africa.

In 1994 47 of South Africa’s top 300 companies had their national head quarters in Sandton – this figure has now increased substantially.

The powerhouse of the South African economy, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange relocated to Sandton in 2000. Investec, Nedcor, MTN, South African Breweries, Rand Merchant Bank and Didata are but a few of the major corporations who are now established in Sandton.

Tourism too plays a major role in Sandton; with a wide range of luxury hotels and excellent facilities in the area international visitors flock to the town; using Sandton as a base from which to explore the wonders of South Africa. Sandton also boasts world class conference facilities.



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