HOTEL Lamunu, with its dramatic use of bright colours, inviting interior and chic living quarters on De Korte Street in Braamfontein is the epitome of “Relaxing and Playing Joburg: the recreation destination”, which is why it was honoured in the City’s most prestigious development awards.

Now in its fifth year, the annual Halala Joburg Awards – hosted by the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) – recognises and celebrates people, projects and places that strive to improve the quality of life in the inner city.

The event, which took place at The Forum at Turbine Hall on 26 June, also honoured other projects, such as 120 End Street Apartments for “Living Joburg: not houses but homes”; The Main Change for “Working and Buying Joburg: creating a business destination”; the Johannesburg Housing Company for “Sustaining Joburg: green buildings, green city”; Shandukani for “Conserving Joburg – the Collosseum Award: Joburg past, present and future”; the Urban Arts Platform for “Caring Joburg: supporting Joburg’s citizens”; and Wayne and Renney Plit for “Believing in Joburg: the Stan Nkosi Award”.

“We meet today to celebrate another historic milestone for the City of Johannesburg and the JDA as we gathered in celebration of the fifth instalment of the Halala Joburg Awards,” said Thanduxolo Mendrew, the agency’s acting chief executive officer, opening the ceremony. “I feel particularly proud of having been part of a journey which saw a sustained programme by the JDA and the City of Johannesburg of turning around the fortunes of what I grew up knowing as the city paved in gold.”

At the event were the who’s who of the development industry; the City’s portfolio head of developmental planning and urban management, Ros Greeff; members of the JDA board; former Halala recipients; City managers and officials; and the community of the greater inner city, among others.

Mendrew said he was humbled by words written in the inner city report that celebrated the end of the mayoral term of Amos Masondo, who stepped down in 2011: “Today, a walk through the streets confirms that the inner city is a hive of building activity. Numerous renovations and refurbishments are under way. New buildings – such as the Absa campus and retrofit and the first phase of the Main Place development that houses Zurich financial services – have set a precedent for others to follow. Billion-rand developments such as hotels, retail and other offices at the Potato Sheds in Newtown and mixed-use development in the southwestern quadrant of the inner city are on the cards. This activity is not limited to buildings, though, as many of the city’s public spaces have received welcome makeovers. Public art lends a new dimension of visual excitement and a creative aesthetic to the city, while the futuristic-looking Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit service has transformed inner city commuting for the better.”

As the development agency for the City, he said, the JDA was “proud to have been tasked with the important mission of changing the spatial form and the visual landscape of this great city. I would like to thank the city mothers and fathers for putting their trust in the JDA to deliver on this challenging vision … Like ‘sangomas’, they sing and dance, turning around the fortunes of this city and, when they are in trance, the results are there for everyone to see and every citizen to enjoy.”

None of this would have been possible without the widespread commitment of the stakeholders, he added. The Halala Joburg Awards were dedicated to these individuals and companies. They recognised and celebrated those who strove for the betterment of the inner city and who ensured that the vibrant heart of Joburg continued to beat a steady rhythm of growth and development.

Nominations for these prestigious awards, which honour people and projects that have taken steps to improve the quality of life in the inner city, closed on 16 April. They aim to encourage efforts to build sustainable and inclusive renewal projects that recognise roles and relationships between the private and public sectors.

Between 2001 and 2008, total private sector investment in key areas where the JDA worked, measured by property transactions, was R7,5-billion, against total JDA investment of R393-million. This was another reason why the agency’s investment in townships had increased almost 30 percent of total funding.

The awards were established in 2008 to help meet the City’s goal of regeneration in the inner city. Nominees each year undergo a rigorous process before the shortlist is compiled. Each project is thoroughly assessed by experts in their respective fields. This year’s adjudication panel consisted of Nopasika Lila, Anne Steffny, Thanduxolo Mendrew, Yasmeen Dinath, Nkosinathi Manzana, Sharon Lewis, and Zahira Asmal.

The adjudication panel

Lila was the chair of the panel this year. She is a chartered accountant and chief financial officer of the Eskom Pension and Provident Fund. She also serves as a non-executive director of the JDA and chairs its Audit Committee. Additionally, Lila is a member of the Audit Committee of the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, as well as of the National Arts Festival. Her experience and areas of interest cover finances.

Steffny is the director of The Central Johannesburg Partnership, which was established in 1993 to oversee various urban management and urban regeneration partnerships between the City, business and community in the inner city of Johannesburg. Before being appointed acting head of the JDA, Mendrew was its executive manager for risk and compliance management and human resources, a position he held since 2007.

In 2004, he joined the City as director of corporate governance, where he oversaw the group risk compliance and financial stability of the City’s municipal-owned entities. Dinath is a town and regional planner with a Master of Science degree from the University of the Witwatersrand. She joined the National Research Foundation South African Research Chairs Initiative programme as a researcher in 2011. Before that, she worked in the City’s department of development planning and urban management.

The fifth judge, Manzana, is the director and head of development management at Standard Bank Real Estate Investments, responsible for property and asset management of existing bank-owned and occupied buildings and for the development of new offices. Before joining Standard Bank, he was the chief operating officer of the JDA.

Lewis is an executive manager of planning and strategy at the JDA, responsible for directing the strategic focus of the agency, assembling a set of potential public upgrading projects, and improving urban regeneration practice through area-based development and management.

Finally, Asmal is the founder and managing director of Designing_South Africa and Designing_Brazil, two leading urban research projects focused on understanding and sharing the process and outcomes of mega events, particularly related to their impact on the cities that host them, and how this relates to urban identity, culture and design.

She has worked with locally and globally celebrated designers and architects such as David Adjaye in London, where she contributed to his book on African Metropolitan Architecture and his exhibition, Urban Africa. She has developed design institutions such as the Design Indaba in Cape Town and the ExperimentaDesign Biennale in Lisbon. She also has work in numerous publications in the UK, Spain, Australia, South Africa, Portugal, Japan and Italy. Most recently, she published Reflections & Opportunities: Design, Cities and the World Cup. Asmal is also the 2012 Halala Joburg Awards brand ambassador.


In her address at the awards ceremony, Greeff said: “Despite the huge investments made in infrastructure and housing development, property and inequality have been increasing steadily in the inner city. The poor struggle to tap into economic resources and opportunities and the question is how we start linking people to opportunities and opportunities to people.”

Johannesburg launched its Growth and Development Strategy mayoral outreach in 2011, she explained. Joburg 2040, the name of the final strategy, was people-centred and talked about achieving resilience, sustainability and liveability. “From henceforth, the Halala Joburg Awards should be aimed at highlighting those projects and programmes that speak directly to the Joburg 2040 vision,” she said.

“They should seek to celebrate efforts that are beginning to actualise the City’s vision as outlined in the Integrated Development Programme Key Flagship Projects.”

Flagship projects

Next year, Greeff said, the Halala Joburg Awards would be structured in accordance with these flagship projects:

  • A shift to low carbon infrastructure and urban water management – start recognising projects that introduce demand-side initiatives as far as the use of water and energy sources are concerned within privately and publicly developed buildings;
  • The roll out of “separation at source” waste management initiatives, not only as a city-wide strategy but as something building owners must implement in their buildings; and
  • The rollout of Rea Vaya creates new opportunities for development and investment. The City has identified transit orientated development interventions as vital in the space economy. This will include developmental initiatives along public transit corridors, affordable housing and commerce into these nodes, in order to ensure that people are not only near to their places of work but that it also connects people and brings them to jobs.

Overview, background and achievement

Greeff gave an overview of the awards, explaining their origins: “In 2007, the JDA conceptualised the Halala Joburg Awards programme and presented it to the mayoral committee, who welcomed the idea of an urban awards programme similar to the International Downtown Awards [in the United States] … The main aim of the awards programme was to thank the inner city stakeholders for believing in the vision to rebuild the inner city to its former glory.”

In 2011, the City celebrated a decade of regeneration and, with the help and dedication of stakeholders, had managed to turn around the state of the inner city, which was plagued by crime and grime, to a thriving economic hub.

She quoted Executive Mayor Parks Tau from his state of the City address: “Together with our partners, we have made significant strides in revitalising the inner city, attracting new investment, significantly reducing crime levels and taking strong action against grime and decay. The inner city continues to grow from strength to strength as the economic core. The character of the CBD is changing from being exclusive and conservative to an inclusive, vibrant, multi-cultural African city.”

The regeneration of some of the derelict buildings in the inner city from office blocks into affordable housing had helped build sustainable human settlements, she added. The establishment of entertainment and commercial spaces within the inner city had greatly improved perceptions about safety and increased visitor numbers.

In closing, Greeff said: “This evening as we celebrate the fifth annual Halala Joburg Awards, I challenge you to reflect on what we have achieved together, how we have done this, and how we can sustain these results and take the inner city into a bright new future.”