With all of this advice, it might be a good idea to summarise it all:
From Jo'burg head North on the N1 Toll road to Pietersburg (Polokwane) (4 Toll gates to go through)
1. Take the R71 leading to R81 via Giyane up to the junction with the R524; turn right to Punda Gate +/- 35kms. (No Toll gates)
2. Carry on the N1 to Louis Trichard (Machado) and turn left onto the R524 via Thoyandou direct to Punda Gate. (2 Tollgates)
3. N1 to Banderlierkop - 10kms North turn right onto un-numbered road to Elim; 100kms further at 4 way stop turn left on R81 for 10kms and right on R524 to Punda Gate. (1 Tollgate).
For those arriving at O R Tambo International Airport - Take the R21 to Pretoria and then onto the N1.
On all the above roads - watch out for speed traps as well as the odd road block where they check driver's and vehicle licences and sometimes whether the vehicles lights/brakes etc are working.
On the rural roads, watch out for cattle/donkeys/goats/pedestrians and the usual cowboy driver that is resident in every town.
Shopping: On Sundays especially, shop at Irene Mall just off the R21 (take the Nelmapius Drive off ramp) Food and Liquor is available here until at least 3 pm. North of Pretoria, on a Sunday, you will not find any liquor stores open and most supermarkets are closed by 2 pm.
Other good shopping places during the week: Potgeitersrus (Mokapane); Louis Trichard (Machado).
(Haven't seen the Elim Mall - it is not on this road but will get more info from others)
Roadside vendors on all three routes can provide good quality, reasonably priced fruit/veg that is in season.
Scenery - it all depends on what you define as scenic! Via Giyane is probably the most scenic - Thoyandou is bush and Elim is bush and villages............(and good for towing)
So, there you have it...........take the option best suited and enjoy the trip. (Watch out for Ndloti's chickens, you can find them in the towns up here as well