Millions needed to fix Jo'burg landmark - TechCentral

Millions needed to fix Jo’burg landmark

The Sentech Tower in Johannesburg

One of Johannesburg’s iconic landmarks, the Sentech broadcasting tower near Auckland Park, is literally falling apart. Bits of concrete are flaking off the 237m-tall structure.

The tower is in a state of disrepair thanks in large part — it’s suspected — to acid rain that has rusted steel reinforcements in the tower. However, Sentech has assured residents in the area that the problems don’t pose a danger to them. There is no risk of the tower collapsing.

Zane Mannell on top of the Sentech Tower (click to enlarge)

The structure, which was erected in 1961 at a cost of just R300 000, will soon receive a major maintenance upgrade to fix the problems. Demolishing the structure is not an option: a new one would cost about R300m to erect.

Sentech’s acting GM for operations and maintenance, Zane Mannell, says the company has commissioned international construction and engineering Arup, which originally built the tower, to determine what needs to be done to restore it to full health.

Arup, which also designed the Sydney Opera House in Australia and the Centre Pompidou in Paris, France, is expected to file its report to Sentech in the next week. After that, the state-owned broadcasting signal distributor will put the repair job out to tender.

Mannell inspects the concrete shells at the top of the tower (click to enlarge)

Mannell says the work needs to be carried out urgently.

Arup has been asked to provide Sentech with details of the extent of the “spalling” problem, where bits of concrete are flaking off the structure.

“On one side there’s a lot of spalling because of moisture and acidity of air which has rusted some of the metal, pushing the outer layer of concrete away,” Mannell says. “We want to ensure there is nothing structurally wrong, and then fix it.”

Arup has also been tasked with investigating a kink two-thirds of the way up the tower — the structure was built with the kink, then reinforced to counter the problem. Sentech wants to ensure the kink isn’t damaging the structure.

The SABC building seen from the top of the Sentech Tower (click to enlarge)

Lastly, Arup is expected to report back on the condition of the concrete “shells” that surround the top of the tower, where some delamination has taken place, leaving holes that mar its surface.

Mannell says Sentech also wants to fix holes that were created when Sentech erected neon lighting under the bell of the tower – the lighting was removed after complaints from the local residents’ association.

Fixing the tower, which is designed to withstand winds of up to 200km/h, will cost millions of rand, Mannell says. The full extent of the costs will only become known once Arup has filed its report and tender applications have been received.

The tower, which provides television and radio broadcasts to most of the greater Johannesburg region, is an integral part of Sentech’s broadcasting infrastructure in Gauteng. It provides signals to 7m people in the region.  — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral


  1. Ian D. Samson on

    It’s a beautiful structure and it’s a pity it has just been left to rot, but I guess that’s typical of this government. If the public were once again allowed onto the observation platform for a fee, the repairs would soon be paid for. I remember the tower being built and when there was nothing but grass on the site.

  2. Ian really now… are you one of those people who blame the govt for everything including the acid rain which damaged the stell reinforcements – read the artcle properly and stop letting your biases get the better of you

  3. @Ian D. How is it typical of the Government if the structure is run by Sentech? Like the Athlone towers that were demolished in Cape Town, people turned to cling on old structures that should be taken down and rebuild. Yes 300mil is a hell of a lot of money, and to be honest, it does not sound realistic.

  4. @ Ian. Please not in this website. lets help Techcentral to be a platform that give something useful or necessary to anything that provides mental stimulus for thinking. I know that you might have lots of ttime at your disposal but with your late time of life I hope you use it to inspire respect to your good self.

  5. Maxwell .K. L on

    The Sentech tower has dominated the Johannesburg skyline for 44 years, with a flood of signals transmitted daily from this landmark.The first pilot for television broadcasting was conducted from the tower in 1975 and in 1999 it became the site of the first digital terrestrial television transmitter in Africa. Currently 17 FM transmissions, six TV transmissions, one digital TV transmission and one digital audio broadcast are transmitted from the tower, and it is an aggregation site for Sentech’s broadband wireless product MyWireless.

  6. The_Librarian on

    Ironic – the tower is falling apart at the same time Sentech is falling apart…

  7. the tower has stood the test of time 1961~2010. what a transition of time. what a pity that even a dead structure can not teach rock with ears a lesson or two.

  8. I agree with one of Ian D.’s points. Why not allow people to go up to the observation platform? I would love to do that and yes it would deffinately help pay the maintanance costs. They should have done this a long time ago.

  9. @ Ian Government is not at fault, Its a natural phenomenon called wear and tear. But I agree with you, it should be re-opened for public viewing, would generate tons of income, school excursions, tourists, even the local jo’burger would love to take a peak from the top, it would also give a much needed boost to the brixton area…

  10. I would like to add, Ian, that the Parliament buildings in London have had to receive extensive refurbishments over the years due to the negative effects of acid rain on the structure. Is the British government also to blame for wear and tear? Look at this objectively.

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