Durban - Merewent residents have accused telecommunications company Atlas Towers Group of targeting “impoverished” communities by choosing to place a cell mast in their neighbourhood.
The company erects radio masts to improve wireless connectivity for mobile network operators. However, some Merewent residents say they believe the masts pose a serious health risk.
This week, angry residents came out in numbers and halted the erection of a mast inside a residential property on Umbria Road.
They staged a protest opposing the installation and asked the contractor to vacate the site.
Cell masts have been removed in some areas of Durban following public outcry.
Merewent residents who signed a petition with the assistance of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDEA) accused the company of flouting land-use by-laws by erecting the mast without the consent of residents.
Resident Raven Naidoo said they were surprised when they saw contractors installing the masts. He said no consultations had been conducted and it was not clear whether the company had obtained permission from the municipality.
“We had to take some action because we knew nothing about the mast. We have been fighting against cell mast for many years, and we believe we are being targeted because we are poor. They moved away from suburban areas because they challenged them there,” he said.
However, Jansen Van Rensburg, Atlas Towers director of operations, dismissed the allegations, saying the company had all required permissions.
“We are aware of the allegations from the community and we have approached the local ward councillor and political parties to furnish them with all documentation. Our operations are within the law, we have obtained the land-use right and we have approved plans from the municipality.
“The ward councillor was made aware of the project and we advertised in the local newspaper. We have reported the matter to relevant authorities and we are prepared to provide all the evidence,” he said.
Van Rensburg also dismissed claims that they were targeting impoverished people, adding that they had been installing cell masts everywhere to improve signal.
“There is no such thing, we provide the towers where our clients feel there is a need to improve connectivity. We have done the same in Umhlanga and Hillcrest areas,” he added.
Aubrey Snyman, local ward councillor, denied having any information regarding the cell mast.
He said he was informed only last week when residents rejected the installation.
Desmond D’Sa, co-ordinator for SDCEA said, they had written to the municipality to get clarity about