The ribbon on Nelson Mandela Bridge will tomorrow be cut.

Those who stand beneath the 284-metre (930ft) structure will witness the unveiling of a new landmark but also a rise to prominence of the city’s artistic and cultural institutions.

 "We are witnessing the winning back of the city," said Neville Huxham, of Business Against Crime, one of the groups spearheading the changes.

Crime reduction

A new initiative against crime in the city centre has cut offences by up to 80 percent, and businesses, which in the past looked north to the suburb of Sandton for peace and prosperity, are increasingly willing to set up shop in the centre of town.

Developers are even building luxury apartment blocks in the former no-go zone.

The bridge will cost just £6.7m and is set to be a thoroughfare for both pedestrians and vehicles, linking many of the city’s galleries and museums to a new court building.

It will span a railway rather than a river and its design, commissioned by Graeme Reid, head of the Johannesburg Development Agency, is the brainchild of a Danish architect and French lighting engineer.

Urban blight

Problems clearly remain. Many of the office buildings in the area, previously gleaming tributes to Johannesburg’s enormous mineral wealth, now lie in states of disrepair.

Squatters, drug addicts and petty thieves populate those dilapidated structures left un-shuttered.

Still, the installation of some 200 cameras throughout the city centre that track those suspected of being involved in crime has had a major impact in returning a measure of security to Johannesburg.

Increased policing and an improving economy have also played a part in the revival of the city’s prospects.

Crime cameras

By the end of the year, there will be as many as 360 cameras covering the city-centre. This number will eventually rise to 3,500, according to John Penberthy, managing director, of the security firm managing the system's roll-out.

"The Pied Piper of Hamlyn has walked through the place and taken the rats out of town," he told the Guardian newspaper.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela will open the bridge tomorrow.