Residents of Umhlanga  Justine Horner and Garth Hall are livid over the cellphone tower erected close to their estate without consultation late last year. File Picture: GCINA NDWALANE/ANA Pictures
Residents of Umhlanga Justine Horner and Garth Hall are livid over the cellphone tower erected close to their estate without consultation late last year. File Picture: GCINA NDWALANE/ANA Pictures

DA calls for investigation into CCTV deal with MTN

By ARTHI GOPI Time of article published Jun 3, 2017

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DURBAN – ETHEKWINI Municipality's explanation for the many cellphone towers topped with CCTV cameras is to limit the number of poles and avoid alerting criminals.

Residents have been up in arms about the towers, claiming they had not been consulted, and that the towers were affecting their health.

Last week, reports emerged of a “secret deal” between MTN and the municipality to go ahead with the towers, and DA ward councillors have called for an investigation.

Deputy mayor Fawzia Peer, who chairs the security and emergency services committee, said cellphone towers did not fall under her oversight, but the cellular masts would be used “so that we don't have too many poles around”.

“The pole is existing and we are only putting up the CCTV,” she said, referring the city expanding its CCTV coverage of the region.

When pressed on why there was no official announcement of the project and public participation, Peer said: “Normally when we put up cameras we don't announce it to the public.

"We find that when that is done, we find thugs or criminals breaking it down.”

A tour of the CCTV room at the Disaster Management Centre this week showed that cameras have helped in the solving of crimes and act as a deterrent to criminals.

In some months, as many as 23 incidents of crime, including thefts out of cars, stabbings and robberies have been recorded, often leading to successful prosecutions.

MTN referred all queries to the city, and efforts to get comment via the city's communications department were unsuccessful.

“Can you please send us the details and addresses of the complainants. We will forward their details to the relevant unit who will investigate the legitimacy of the allegations. We prefer to address the matter directly with the concerned parties, and not through a third party,” said a municipal spokesperson, not wanting to comment on the alleged deal or the project.

Sipho Kaunda, who chairs the city's planning committee, under which the erection of the cellphone towers fall, said as a city they always consulted residents, but he would have to investigate claims that residents were not consulted about the erection of the cell towers.

DA ward councillor Shaun Ryley last week,pushed for an investigation into the alleged secret deal at a full council meeting. This was not agreed upon.

“The DA cannot recall that any such agreement (between MTN and the city) had come before any standing committee of the council for ratification, nor did any request for permission to enter into such an agreement.

"Our councillors have, since September, received numerous complaints from residents regarding the erection of masts across the city on municipal land.

"We will push for answers, and if we are not satisfied with the answer we will lodge a PAIA (Promotion of Access to Information) application because often we get very vague or unsubstantial answers to questions,” said Ryley.

THE INDEPENDENT ON SATURDAY

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