South African billionaire Douw

A rendering showing the future shopping hub of Steyn City.

South African billionaire Douw Steyn builds his own mega-city

While Douw Steyn divides his time between the UK and South Africa, his heart is set on building himself a sprawling mansion within his very own city, showing that investing in his home town Johannesburg is a positive thing

South African billionaire Douw

A rendering showing the future shopping hub of Steyn City.

Insurance entrepreneur, Douw Steyn, is definitely a man with a vision. His dreams are large. Or let’s say, enormous. Steyn’s vision of a 800 hectare estate between Johannesburg and Pretoria is rapidly taking shape.

The billionaire’s personal home, Palazzo Steyn, is valued at 250million. Naturally, it is located in the center of Steyn City. It even beats Zuma’s Nkandla, but at least it wasn’t paid with taxpayers money. The 3000 square meter mansion is – upon completion – South Africa’s most expensive and sits on two and a half hectare.


Douw Steyn’s Pallazo Steyn in the middle of the Steyn City development north of Johannesburg

The Steyn City development is built on the concept of building a city within a city. Johannesburg is a sprawling, urban place. While Steyn is an extremely private man, and an interview a rarity, he explains the project on his website. He started the project with his director of Steyn City Properties, Giuseppe Plumari, who says,

“Giuseppe and I share the same vision – to create a lifestyle estate unlike any other in South Africa built on the foundation of quality of life. A country estate offering country living, but with all amenities conveniently within reach. Too much time is wasted in cities sitting in traffic and commuting between home, work, schools and the shops. We want to bring all these elements of daily life into one estate and give residents back the precious commodity of time, in a secure, upmarket environment.”


The map of Steyn City gives a sense of scale and is made up of acquiring the bordering estate Dainfern and privately-owned land to the north. And then Steyn acquired the remaining portions to make up the current 2 000 acres.


Steyn, now 62 years old, grew up in Johannesburg and went to the university in Potchefstroom. He launched Auto & General Insurance in 1985, and replicated the model in the UK with Budget Insurance.



So, what does Steyn City offer? Well, if you buy an apartment there you will be using the estate’s very own, newly built, water reservoir capable of storing 30 mega liters. It boasts the following facilities:

A rendering showing the future shopping hub of Steyn City.
A rendering showing the future shopping hub of Steyn City.

If you’re interested in sports then you can enjoy a bike track, outdoor exercise equipment, a golf course, a rugby field, a jogging track and jungle gyms for the kids.

Outdoor exercise area.
Outdoor exercise area.

33 2015-03-19 15-32-49

The homes built on the estate are divided into three categories: apartments, clusters and freehold stands.

What a typical apartment in Steyn City will look like.
What a typical apartment in Steyn City will look like. 2015-03-19 15-53-47
The view of the apartment blocks with balconies. 2015-03-19 15-54-17
An interior view of an apartment. 2015-03-19 15-54-35
A view of the apartment blocks from the pool and restaurant area.


Well, how much is this all going to cost? Steyn answers this on the Q&A on his website concerning a question if Steyn City has cost R6 billion so far.

“No. R6 billion is what the infrastructure phase will have cost at the time of launch to market in the summer of 2015. This phase includes the internal and external utilities beyond our boundary walls, such as water, sewerage and roads that will benefit stakeholders in the area. We have also partnered with government to fast-track the completion of major routes, including the William Nicol and Erling interchange, with the result that this commuter belt will be transformed.”

A center for horses will include 36 stables.
A center for horses will include 36 stables. 2015-03-19 15-48-13

Of course, any such large scale development is going to be met with criticism. The storm raging on Twitter is that Steyn City is exclusive, a city for wealthy Africans, that does not actually provide jobs to areas like the poor, neighbouring Diepkloof. Some critics have pointed out that the majority of the renderings include white people, and that this is indeed not a true representation of the mixed Johannesburg, or South African, population.

The mega-development is four times the size of Monaco and is drawing attention around the world. Steyn City security motto for its citizens is elegantly worded as, “peace of mind remains one of the biggest priorities”. While it promises job creation, the development has been criticised for being yet another exclusive, gated community that protects those, who have enough money, from crime.

But Patrick Craven, spokesperson for trade union federation Cosatu, commented: “It is almost a form of apartheid, not in a strictly racial sense, though in practice those who are the target of restrictions into certain areas tend to be black people.”

One of the biggest arguments is that the neighbouring township Diepsloot will indeed not benefit from the development. Chief executive, Giuseppe Plumari, Steyn City developer, has instead argued that they will “empower the people” who are living in Diepsloot.

Douw Steyn and his wife.

But the self-made billionaire is sticking to his vision.

His aim for the development is: “A city like no other; centered on people not cars, offering access to a multitude of lifestyle activities in a safe and secure environment.” 

Only time will tell if this Utopian ideal improves the life of the Jozi people and the city itself.