People in more than 31 major cities, including Durban, are today joining the International Global 5G Protest.

Stop 5G South Africa said there had been much focus on climate change, fracking, and plastics in the ocean, but 5G also posed a threat to humanity, animals and the environment.

Emma Kelly, an activist with Stop 5G South Africa, said an international appeal to Stop 5G on Earth and in Space had been making its way around the world. Signed by 4800 scientists, 2800 medical doctors, 770 beekeepers, 2000 environmental organisations, and 180000 others from 202 countries and territories, the appeal calls on the world’s governments to stop the deployment of 5G cellular technology.

“This will be an awareness campaign of the possible dangers which come with the implementation of 5G. We want to make the government wake up and realise what is happening. It needs to first prove the 5G network is safe before it is implemented.”

Kelly said the goal was to stop the deployment of millions of 5G antennae on Earth and 50000 5G satellites in space, and to secure emergency high-level meetings with officials in governments and international organisations including the EU, UN, and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

MTN executive for corporate affairs Jacqui O’Sullivan said there had been concerns about 2G, 3G and 4G, and to date no effects had been proven. O’Sullivan said MTN had been adhering to laws, safety and health guidelines set up by the WHO; adding that there was much to be gained from 5G.

She said the main advantages were greater speed, greater capacity of remote execution, a greater number of connected devices and the possibility of implementing virtual networks.

“This new generation technology is expected to unlock the full capabilities of next generation services such as virtual and augmented reality, ultra-high definition video streaming, artificial intelligence, robotics and automated cars.”

Vodacom said its network in South Africa had been 5G-ready since August 2018 and expected to be in a position to commercially launch the technology once it had access to the requisite spectrum. Spokesperson Byron Kennedy said the WHO found that, considering the low exposure levels and research results to date, there was no convincing scientific evidence that the weak radio frequency signals from base stations and wireless networks cause adverse health effects.

The organisation found that “despite extensive research to date, there is no evidence to conclude that exposure to low level electromagnetic fields is harmful to human health”, said Kennedy. He disputed claims that 5G would bring 24-hour surveillance. He said 5G was merely a bearer of technology similar to 2G, 3G or 4G and would provide internet connection.

“It does not have any specific ‘surveillance’ functions as part of the specification. If users are tracked via their mobile phones, it typically is a function of an OTT app loaded on the phone and for which the user gives consent, for example, Google Maps. Vodacom does not track or perform surveillance on its customer base and complies with the local laws on privacy as well as international laws.”

The protest will be at North Beach skateboard park from 11am-7pm.