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Welcome to Sandton, the plushest area on the continent where high walls, flash cars and hired help are representations of the owners’ opulence

jaclyn skurie
Sandton is Africa’s hottest millionaire playground, boasting more high net worth individuals than anywhere else on the continent.
London-based financial research firm WealthInsight revealed this month that Joburg is home to 23 400 dollar millionaires.
Of these, 1 900 have risen to millionaire status over the past year alone, and 15 300 have chosen to live in Sandton.
Dollar millionaires are those individuals with business interests, investable assets and liquid assets worth $1 million (R9.6 million) or more, excluding the value of their main home.
The African city with the second most dollar millionaires is Cairo, with 20 800 by the end of last year. The Egyptian capital was followed by Lagos, Nigeria, with ­18 000.
Cape Town ranks second in South Africa, with 9 000 dollar millionaires.
WealthInsight analyst Andrew Amoils said: “The most interesting statistics were in Sandton. Sandton experienced far stronger growth than the rest of the country, with millionaire numbers in the area rising by 18% during the past year.”
Joburg is also home to 285 multimillionaires, who are defined as having net assets worth more than $30 million.
According to Amoils, this ranks “well above the likes of Cairo (145), Cape Town (110) and Lagos (123)”.
South Africa’s four billionaires are Nicholas Oppenheimer and family, Johann Rupert, Patrice Motsepe and Christo Wiese.
The results of Census 2011 revealed that 3 678 households in the Sandton area enjoy an income of more than R2.4 million a year.
Sandhurst, arguably Sandton’s poshest suburb, is home to 120 of those high-income earners.
Driving down the quiet streets of that suburb, one finds few signs of life.
An occasional SUV – the standard Porsche or Mercedes Benz – rolls by, bouncing over speed bumps.
The greatest insight you can get into the characters of those who live beyond the walls comes from the ornamentation on their iron gates. One is adorned with bronze sculptures of cow heads, while a stone mermaid sits outside another.
It is difficult to differentiate between what is a house and what is a consulate or hotel here.
These estates have fancy names like Siena, Tchissola House and Cleveland Lodge, and their hedges are neatly trimmed into triangles and circles.
When international celebrities visit Joburg, they often stay in Sandhurst. Charlize Theron and Oprah Winfrey regularly stay at The Saxon boutique hotel, which is owned by London-based billionaire Douw Steyn.
Earlier this month, it was rumoured that Canadian teen pop sensation Justin Bieber stayed at The Saxon during the Joburg leg of his South African tour.
Most homes, and even some streets, are watched over by guards in huts outside. Everything from the landscaped pavements to the perimeter walls are detailed.
Everything is attractive and elaborate.
A myriad construction sites tells outsiders that the neighbourhood is flush with cash.
According to its website, Sotheby’s Realty has 10 homes listed for sale in Sandhurst. Asking prices range from R7.95 million to R47 million.
The latter boasts four bedrooms, four garages, two “cloakrooms”, eight reception areas, a plunge pool, a sauna and a steam room.
The few people who are on the suburb’s neatly paved, pothole-free streets are not keen to talk to journalists.
These are security guards, domestic workers and groundskeepers, all of whom say they don’t want to talk about the wealth that surrounds them for fear of losing their jobs.
Johan Roos is overseeing the construction of a 3 000m² home in Sandhurst for a private owner.
He says the three-storey house will have a bowling alley “for relaxing”, a tennis court, and both indoor and outdoor swimming pools.
The construction will take about two years to complete and is one of the biggest projects he has ever worked on.
Roos says many of his clients want their homes to look like “overseas houses”, or those with a more contemporary style.
When City Press arrived at his construction site, workers were busy building “standard” 6m-high perimeter walls.
“They like their privacy,” Roos said of his clients.
He isn’t surprised by the amount of money people have in the area. Most of his work has been in Sandhurst and Houghton Estate, another suburb in northern Joburg where 141 households earn more than R2.4 million a year.
“I like my job and I like my clients. But for me personally, this house is too big. I like my farm lifestyle,” says Roos.
Bryanston in Sandton, northern Joburg, is one of the wealthiest suburbs in Africa’s wealthiest city. It is estimated that Joburg is home to 23 400 dollar millionaires || Photos: Sotheby’s realty
The bar (and the view of the Sandton skyline from it) at a Bryanston mansion, which is on the market for R55 million