City officials’ no show at mast meeting disrespectful, say residents

Ward councillors Mmabatho Tembe, Martin Meyer, Shaun Ryley, Chris Pappas and JP Prinsloo with Niki Moore.

THE absence of municipal officials tasked to attend the Durban Anti-Cellmast Alliance meeting on Tuesday night, is the final straw, said resident and spokesperson of the Alliance, Niki Moore.

Moore called the meeting to discuss the ‘illegal’ cell masts which have been erected by MTN in an alleged partnership with eThekwini Municipality. She invited MTN CEO Rob Shuter and city officials to attend to explain to residents how the cellular company managed to put up 123 cell masts on municipal land without complying with any of the city’s land-use or spatial planning regulations or by-laws.

MTN declined attendance stating it was waiting on the municipality to find a way forward, however, according to Moore, the city manager had tasked Sbu Shezi from the legal department and Musa Mbhele, head of planning, to attend. Neither of them arrived to address concerned residents who packed out the meeting room at Stella Sports Club.

ALSO READ: Residents gun for MTN as war on cell masts heats up

Addressing the meeting, Democratic Alliance (DA) ward councillors Shaun Ryley and Chris Pappas spoke about the investigation the DA was conducting into the how the cellular company managed to got around regulations to erect the cell masts as well as the alleged infrastructure agreement between MTN and the municipality. Ryley said he had put forward questions to council regarding the two matters but to date had received no answers.

“There are a lot of loose ends we are not happy about and have asked for an investigation into this,” he said.

Durban North ward councillor, Shaun Ryley, addresses the meeting.

Pappas said the DA had asked the City to come up with a comprehensive policy on cell towers.

“The City is going on the World Health Organization’s standards based on a study done in 1998. We have asked the City to conduct research to gather definitive evidence to prove whether cell masts do or don’t affect people’s health,” he said.

ALSO READ: DA questions City on cell masts

In her address, Moore raised a lease agreement she and DA councillors had received between MTN and the city and said it was evident that MTN had breached all conditions of the lease. She said she and other residents were tired of being lied to by the municipality. She said an advocate, who believed the cell masts were illegal, had agreed to take on the case pro bono.

“The fact that no city officials arrived today is the nail in the coffin. I will be telling the advocate to file the papers. I am desperately disappointed the city officials didn’t have the manners to arrive to address residents, it is cowardly and extremely disrespectful. People are suffering and their lives are being wrecked by the affects of the cell masts. I will be applying for an interdict to get the masts turned off and taken down. If we get an interdict, the City will be compelled to act,” she said.

Concerned residents attended the meeting at Stella Sports Club.

 

EThekwini Municipality responds

IN a statement to Berea Mail, the eThekwini Disaster Management Unit said there were 327 poles in the city being utilised for CCTV coverage adding that these were also being used by various cellular network companies as cell masts.

“These poles were rolled out in preparation for the Soccer World Cup in 2010. During the same time, network provider, MTN approached the City seeking permission to rent the City’s poles for their cell masts. All poles that MTN currently uses have been approved by the City. These were existing poles being used by the City for erecting CCTV cameras,” it stated.

ALSO READ: Umbilo residents take legal action against MTN cell masts

The Unit said the 40 new poles were not compliant nor were they operational.

“While MTN may have not adhered to all the relevant prescripts of the land use management protocol in respect of the 40 new poles, steps are being taken to ensure compliance. All poles that MTN is currently making use of have been approved by the City.”

 

 

 

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  AUTHOR
Lauren Walford
Journalist

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