2017: Telecom Company Targets Anti-Cell Mast Activist

Berea Mail – 2017/06/22

GLENWOOD resident, Andre van Rooyen has been vocal in his opposition to the plethora of MTN cell towers that have been erected across the city over the past seven months. Now, he says, he is being harassed after MTN lay a complaint and police raided his home last week.

In a media statement this week, Van Rooyen, who has five cell towers within a 500 metre radius of his home of which none have planning permission from residents, said his house was raided by the SAPS on the night of Wednesday, 14 June.

“The complainant was an anonymous person from MTN. The allegation was that I was suspected of vandalising the MTN cell masts, and they were looking for evidence. They removed my cellphone, computers, clothing, and various bottles of flammable liquids that I keep for home repairs. The loss of my work computer is a real blow, as on this computer I keep all the files and photographs I need to do my work as an insurance assessor,” he said.

Van Rooyen said he believed the real reason his house was raided was because he had been outspoken in the press and about the allegedly illegal cell masts that have been erected by MTN throughout Durban.

“I believe that these cell antennae – erected without the required planning permissions – have been severely affecting my and my family’s health. This raid was an intimidatory tactic. The police refused to disclose who had brought the complaint, but the warrant for the search clearly identifies the damaged masts as belonging to MTN,” said Van Rooyen.

What made the whole incident more curious, he said, was that up until the time of the raid, MTN and the city of eThekwini had denied the masts were cell masts.

“They have been calling them ‘camera poles’ in spite of all evidence to the contrary. The fact that MTN has brought a case with regard to damage of ‘their’ property makes it clear that in fact these towers are solely for the mounting of cellphone antennae, and have been illegally erected,” he said.

Continue reading | Also read: Glenwood Residents Feel Effects of Cell Mast Transmissions

Ethekwini’s Secret Deal with MTN Leaves Residents Sick

City Press – 2017/05/22

Ethekwini residents are livid after discovering that their municipality has secretly signed an agreement with cellphone giant MTN to erect cellphone antennae in Durban, bypassing public participation planning regulations.

The city also “lied” to residents about the proposed new cellphone masts calling them a city-wide CCTV project which would include licence-plate recognition cameras. As a result, residents are blaming the slew of newly built transmitters for a wave of unbearable symptoms similar to radiation sickness.

In September 2016, residents in several Durban suburbs noticed workmen erecting large concrete towers in open city spaces such as traffic islands. Wondering whether these were new cellphone masts, concerned residents approached their councillors and the city administrators for clarity.

But the eThekwini Metro spokesperson, Tozi Mthethwa, reassured the community that the towers were not for cellphone antennae, but that the eThekwini Municipality had embarked on a city-wide CCTV project that would include licence-plate recognition cameras.

Mthethwa said at the time that the project was in line with the Municipal Integrated Development Programme which strives to create a “safe” and “smart” city.

“The objective was to reduce crime in various parts of the city as well as to have coverage of parts of the city where high levels of crime have been reported,” said Mthethwa in a statement.

“These cameras are monitored 24 hours, 365 days a year”.

City Press has been discovered that Mthethwa concealed the fact that the towers were the result of a secret deal struck with MTN by the city’s head of disaster management, Vincent Ngubane, which would allow the cellphone company to circumvent the public participation process that was required for the building of new cellphone infrastructure.

MTN’s national property manager, Gerard Naidoo, confirmed in a telephone interview that MTN had no signed municipal infrastructure agreement with Ethekwini that allowed the company to share municipal infrastructure.

MTN has refused to explain the exact nature of its agreement with Ethekwini’s Disaster Management department even though the antennae are being erected.

The understanding, said Naidoo, was that where infrastructure existed, such as high-mast lighting, telephone poles and CCTV surveillance towers, MTN would “share the structure” for installation of their equipment.

Naidoo claimed that the arrangement was “above board” and done “in good faith” with eThekwini management. He referred additional queries to the city.

MTN had previously had several applications for new towers opposed by residents, who feared health risks and property devaluation as a result of the proximity of the towers.

Homeowners were therefore surprised and outraged when the completed “surveillance” towers were fitted with cellphone antennae instead of cameras. In some cases the masts included a camera perched on top, but in most cases the towers were purpose-built cellphone masts, put up without the necessary public participation process required by municipal planning laws.

Initially the masts sported metal plates with the name of the service provider that had constructed the towers, naming the client as MTN. These were later removed.

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