Nelson Mandela Square

Sandton, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa. GPS 26°06’26.7”S 28°03’17.3”E

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The suburb of Sandton has a varied history, from where the San, a hunter-gatherer society of Southern Africa, used to live to Africa’s richest square mile.1,2 The suburb was established in 1906 and combined the two areas: Sandown and Bryanston.3 In the 1900s, the area was a farming district, but due to the region’s rapid urbanisation, it formally became part of the city of Johannesburg in the 1960s.4 The suburb is a financial, business, tourism, and retail hub for wealthy South Africans and international visitors. 

The square was formally known as Sandton Square but was renamed in 2004 in honour of Mandela and as part of the 10th anniversary of the country’s democracy5 – an example of place (re)naming to reflect a shift in power and whose history and heritage is celebrated. The square was selected for its geographic location in the economic hub of South Africa.6 The place is a pseudo-public space co-owned by two companies, ‘Liberty Group Limited’ and ‘Liberty Two Degrees’.7  As an open-air piazza in Sandton’s Central Business District centre, it is said to incorporate ‘local heritage with international flair’ and provide visitors with glamorous shopping, dining, and leisure experiences.8 The square is in the heart of the Nelson Mandela Square Shopping Centre, which offers a diverse collection of retail and lifestyle choices with an assortment of boutiques, shops, and salons. The centre is next to the iconic Sandton City, which stands as Africa’s most renowned shopping destination, shaping the skyline of Sandton. 

This distinguished locale hosts more than 372 of the world’s most sought-after retail brands, capturing the essence of world-class shopping, dining, and leisure in a glamorous setting. Opposite the road is the Sandton Convention Centre, the premier event venue in South Africa providing prestigious multi-use event spaces in the financial hub of Johannesburg. The square has restaurants around the edges, a fountain in the centre, a line of trees and greenery to the one side where visitors often seek shade, and a theatre that offers entertainment. Its main visual attraction is a giant statue of Mandela overlooking the square, where many people will pose for a photograph in memory of their visit. The place provides a visually rich representation of Mandela through many statues, inscriptions, timelines, and images – some of which offer interactive engagement opportunities. 

Nelson Mandela Square incorporates four key heritage elements associated with Mandela. The bronze statue, depicting a joyful Mandela performing the Madiba Jive, symbolises South Africa’s post-apartheid success. A smaller version of this statue is located at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory. Nearby, the iMadiba project presents a timeline of Mandela’s life. The Remembering Madiba project seamlessly integrates Mandela’s speeches and quotes through touch screens and QR codes throughout the square. Additionally, the square itself functions as a graphic element. The square, regularly cleaned to maintain its pristine state, takes on new roles—hosting live music sessions within temporary structures, providing shaded areas for intimate conversations, and becoming a canvas for the spontaneous playfulness of children around the fountain.

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From the Archive at the Centre of Memory (ACoM)

Item code: ZA COM NMG-459
Title: Madiba, 85 and Still Dancing! Description: Pencil and ink drawing of Nelson Mandela laughing and doing a Madiba jive.
Size: 29.5cm x 41.5cm Medium: Pencil and ink

Items related to Nelson Mandela Square in ACoM

1) ZA COM NMFPC-0069: Unveiling of a statue of Mandela on the renamed Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton, Johannesburg, in 2003.

2) ZA COM MR-T-7-5-2249: Replica of the bronze Nelson Mandela statue in the Nelson Mandela Square, Sandton.

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We extend our thanks to the marketing department at the Nelson Mandela Square Centre for granting us permission to document the square.


1. Sandton Chronicle (2022). History of Sandton. [Accessed 15 February 2024].

2.  Stoughton, I. (2021). Sandton, Africa’s ‘Richest Square Mile,’ Offers a Wide Range of Luxury Homes and a Bustling Economy. Available at: [Accessed 15 February 2024].

3. Sandton Chronicle (2022).

4. Sandton Chronicle (2022).

5. Gerber, C. (2015) Nelson Mandela: Joburg unveils Mandela statue. Available at:
[Accessed 15 February 2024].

6. Gerber (2015).

7. Nelson Mandela Square (2024) About us. Available at:
[Accessed 15 February 2024].

8. Nelson Mandela Square (2024).

Photography © 2023 Robert Harland, Yolandi Burger and Everardt Burger