FILE PICTURE. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency(ANA)
Durban - HILLCREST residents are up in arms over the erection of a Telkom cellphone mast in their suburb without their consent. They have also raised health concerns.

However, Telkom has argued that according to their interpretation of municipal by-laws they had followed the proper procedures when setting up the mast.

The eThekwini Municipality advised Telkom they had broken the law, but it did not respond and the matter has been handed over to the city’s prosecution branch.

A resident, who asked not to be named, said she had received a letter in her postbox last month referring to a 15-metre high cellphone mast being erected in the area. She said this surprised her as she had not heard about plans for a mast.

She later learnt that the mast had been erected and realised that the letters were being sent out to comply with the law that required the community to comment on whether or not they accepted the erection of the mast in their neighbourhood.

Her biggest concerns were the health implications and how it would affect the value of their properties as batteries for cellphone masts are a popular target for criminals.

Hillcrest High School and about 40 residents wrote objection letters to the eThekwini Municipality more than a week ago.

Hillcrest High School objected to the mast as it was a few metres away from the school. Headmaster Craig Girvin said: “We were neither consulted nor made aware of its construction and we are concerned that correct processes do not appear to have been followed. Had we been consulted at the time, we would not have supported the proposal to erect the mast.”

In response, Telkom said: “At the time when the site was built in 2017, we followed the relevant process and according to our interpretation of by-laws. As a result of challenges by municipalities, a decision was taken to follow by-laws as interpreted by the respective municipalities and public participation is one of them hence it was carried out after the fact.

“The site is currently live and providing a valuable service to the community of Hillcrest. We will endeavour to address any concerns.”

The challenges by municipalities Telkom referred to concern a Supreme Court of Appeal ruling against it. Telkom had unsuccessfully appealed against a Western Cape High Court judgment in the City of Cape Town’s favour. The SCA last month affirmed the city’s constitutional mandate to regulate and control use of land within its municipal borders after Telkom said it did not need the municipality’s permission to erect cellphone masts on municipal land.

eThekwini Municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said the “matter will now be handed to the Enforcement and Prosecution Branch for further action.”

Daily News