The Nelson Mandela Bridge


The Nelson Mandela Bridge, named after South Africa’s first democratic President, has won several awards. The bridge is situated in Johannesburg.

nelson mandela bridge pink
The Nelson Mandela Bridge get a pink illumination every year since 2012 to raise awareness for breast cancer. (Image: South African Tourism)

Brand South Africa reporter
Paris has its Eiffel Tower, New York its Statue of Liberty, Sydney its Harbour Bridge. And downtown Johannesburg has the iconic Nelson Mandela Bridge.

Named after the man who led South Africa across the apartheid divide, the bridge was opened by Nelson Mandela in July 2003. Crossing no less than 46 operational railway lines, the 284-metre-long bridge is largest cable-stayed bridge in southern Africa.

Designed by Dissing+Weitling Architecture, the bridge has won numerous awards, including the South African Institute of Civil Engineering Award for Most Outstanding Civil Engineering Project Achievement in Technical Excellence category.

The bridge links the Braamfontein business area with the Newtown precinct. Taking two years to build, the bridge was at the heart of a inner city renewal project by Gauteng province’s economic development initiative, Blue IQ. (Blue IQ has since merged with the Gauteng Development Agency to become the Gauteng Growth and Development Agency).

The rejuvenation project aimed to create a “cultural arc” – a crescent from Constitution Hill through Braamfontein and down to Newtown, which is now known as the city’s cultural precinct.

The bridge links important civic and cultural institutions: the Constitutional Court, the Civic Theatre and Wits University in Braamfontein; Mary Fitzgerald Square, the Market Theatre and the 1913 Museum Africa in Newtown.

Other attractions in the area are the Dance Factory, the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre and the SAB World of Beer. The square regularly hosts several big events, including the Joy of Jazz festival and Diwali.

During 2011’s Joburg Fashion Week, South African designer David Tlale turned the bridge into the longest ramp in the history of South African fashion. Tlale’s Made In The City collection featured 92 models in celebration of 92 years of Nelson Mandela’s life.


In 2012, the City of Johannesburg and a cosmetics company lit the bridge pink for a week in an effort raise awareness about breast cancer.

Facts about the bridge

Nelson Mandela Bridge carries two lanes of traffic and has two sidewalks for pedestrians as well as a cycle path, with a continuous toughened glass parapet to ensure pedestrian safety.

According to Construction Weekly:

  • The asymmetrical dual-pylon cable-stay bridge is made up of a 66-metre north back span, a 176-metre main span and a 42-metre south back span, giving a total length of 284 metres.
  • The north pylon is 42-metres high and the south pylon 27-metres high, creating a delicate balance and an interesting visual appeal.
  • The main span was built as light as possible, using structural steel with a concrete composite deck, while the heavier back spans were built from reinforced concrete to counterbalance the long main span.
  • The bridge is supported on the largest pot bearings ever to be installed in South Africa. The 1.5-metre diameter bearings, which have a capacity of up to 27 Mn, are designed to accommodate the large temperature movements of the bridge.
  • Approximately 4 000 cubic metres of concrete and 1 000 tons of structural steel were used to construct the bridge, with around 500 tons of reinforcing steel cast into the concrete.

Sources: South African Tourism, Dissing+Weitling Architecture, Gauteng Growth and Development Agency, Construction Weekly, and the City of Johannesburg.

Would you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See Using Brand South Africa material