Rising concern at mast plan

Another cell tower near Cafda Village in Retreat Road.

Cafda residents have until tomorrow, Thursday December 6, to object or comment on yet another application to erect a cellphone tower in the area.

Residents received letters from the City of Cape Town notifying them of the application made by Sharon Assembly Church and Warren Petterson Planning to permit a free-standing base telecommunications station at the church in Peter Charles Street.

The telecommunications station will consist of three equipment containers and nine antennae on top of an 18m-high mast, which will be disguised as a church steeple.

Cafda community worker Aubrey Robinson has been trying to arrange a meeting with the church to discuss the installation but said he has had little success.

Mr Robinson said the church is trying to make more money and not considering residents.

“This is a case of money versus concerns. We have health concerns and what effect radiation will have on us in the long term and I have explained this to the church but they have not met with the community about their intentions and have been ignoring our concerns.

“I don’t have anything against the church but this is something that will affect the community and we have a right to be involved in what takes place in our area.”

“We want them to engage with the community. There’s already a massive cell mast up at another church in Retreat Road. Why do we need another one?,” said Mr Robinson.

Cafda resident Lena Scheepers was one of the people who received the letter about the application.

“The truth is that I do not know if these emissions are unhealthy or if it will affect us in the long term so I cannot comment on that because I am not a medical professional. What I can say is that the process is flawed. Why did they not come to the community and speak about their intentions? We should have been informed and they should then tell us what the pros and cons are,” said Ms Scheepers.

“Sometimes people do things because they will benefit financially but what about the impact it will have on us, on the small children, the sick people of our communities. There are so many health issues and one has to wonder if it is not a result of all this radiation being emitted into the air and through our bodies,” said Ms Scheepers.

According to an environmental and anti-nuclear organisation, Earthlife Africa, there has been a spike in the erection of cell masts in residential areas.

Earthlife Africa advocates for the placement of these masts to be regulated.

Muna Lakhani, branch co-coordinator of Earthlife Africa Cape Town, confirmed there has been an increase lately.

“We simply cannot cope with the number of communities that have come for help to resist these cell towers,” said Mr Lakhani.

Asked why there has been a surge in the number of these cell towers in recent years, Mr Lakhani said it could be because of digital TV migration.

“I think there has been an increase because current major players are in the process of grabbing as much coverage as they can. Because once the spectrum opens up after digital migration of television other players are bound to enter the market,” he said.

Mr Lakhani is referring to government’s plans of the migration of current analogue TV systems to a digital terrestrial television system.

South Africa is in the process of changing to digital TV technology as directed by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The deadline for the completion of the change to digital is June next year.

Mr Lakhani said the instalment of these cell towers is a money-making scheme and said electro-sensitivity has been scientifically proven.

Residents were concerned that the cell towers are only being erected in poor and middle class areas but, said Mr Lakhani: “While it is often true it seems the affluent areas are not immune of late as towers have gone up in Noordhoek, for example. But there are definitely more in middle class and poor areas.”

Mr Lakhani said the organisation has health concerns and is worried about the long-term effects of exposure to electronic emissions.

“We will over time see further strain on our healthcare resources and children in particular will find school even more problematic. In other countries not even wi-fi is allowed in schools, but it seems that money overrides these concerns. In theory we have the precautionary principle where if harm is unknown we must rather not proceed – but this is ignored,” he said.

Mr Lakhani encouraged residents to get involved and object when there are plans to erect cell towers in their communities. <

Jerome Hurling, pastor at the Sharon Assembly Church, said he was not initially aware of residents’ concerns.

“I have requested a meeting with certain stakeholders because I want to understand what the concerns are. I will do some research of my own and I will request a postponement of the application so that I can weigh up the pros and cons,” he said.

Asked to respond to the claims that the church is trying to make money at the cost of the community Mr Hurling said this is not the case.

“All this will be discussed at a meeting that I will have in the week,” he said.

Residents can send their objections or comments on the proposal to comments_objections.southern@capetown.gov.za or to the office of the district management at the development department on the ground floor at 3 Victoria Road, Plumstead.

Once objections and comments have been received the applicant needs to respond.

An assessment of the application will then be done and a report will be compiled and referred to the municipal planning tribunal for their decision. Residents can also get in touch with the National Alliance Against Cell Masts by emailing info@naacm.co.za or visiting the website www.naacm.co.za