This is a story about the undermining of our democracy. This is a story about how a corporation was able to bully residents in their own neighbourhood. This is a story about the flagrant disregard for the rights of a community exhibited by government and corporate interests and about profit over the will of the people.
For the best part of 17 years, the greater community of the Strawberry Lane area has been actively opposing the construction of cell phone masts in the area. They have marched, have signed petitions, have launched websites, held protests and have met with cell phone company executives to explain their views and their communal position. The community has successfully opposed two previous attempts to erect masts in the area and now the community has had enough of having to fight and wants to know why they have to keep fighting to defend their rights in their own neighbourhood.
Why, in a democratic society, is the will of the majority no longer a deciding factor in what happens in the midst of a residential community?
What has happened to allow the business interests of corporations more rights than the ratepayers and property owners in a residential suburb?
This is not about cell technology or about this one particular tower. This is about a growing trend in government to serve the interests of big business despite the protestations by, and regardless of the effect on, the taxpaying voter…..
In 2011, over 90% of homes polled in the Strawberry Lane area in a 300m radius of the Eskol Lane mast signed against it. And again in 2014 over 90% of homes polled in the area signed the petition against the MTN mast in Dalham Rd. The map alongside reflects those homes who signed against the mast (for a variety of different reasons), those who didn’t sign (yellow) and those where no-one was at home during the poll. More information can be found here: Detailed breakdown and explanation of the poll statistics
On 3 June 2015, the Western Cape High Court ruled that the MTN cellphone tower in Dalham Rd is not a “temporary” structure and had not been legally erected. Residents celebrate cell mast victory (20150618 Constantiaberg Bulletin)
MTN appealed the ruling but on 1 Dec 2016, the Supreme Court of Appeal also ruled that the base station was not a temporary structure and the building plans had been wrongly approved by the City of Cape Town. [2016 Judgement]
The judgement demonstrates how the City advised MTN to circumvent the planning and approval process (and by extension the rights of rate payers)
The judgement also potentially has far-reaching implications for other communities who have been affected by the erection of masts as temporary structures. (In the Telecommunication Policy dated April 2015, see Page 5, Heading Problem Statements, the council states that many existing installation have been approved on a temporary basis. http://www.emrsa.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/20150817-TMIP-final-approved.pdf)
In March 2017 MTN submitted a rezoning application to Council to obtain building plan approval for a permanent structure. The City has advertised the application and comments or objections can be submitted before 26 June 2017. Further details: Application for Rezoning of the Dalham Rd mast site
After two and a half years of operation, the illegal mast is still active and MTN have repeatedly refused requests to turn it off pending the outcome of the court cases and further applications to Council.
This community’s story clearly demonstrates the injustice of a system imposed on society by our government and the telecommunications industry who do little to offer precautionary advice and education on appropriate and responsible wireless use and who don’t demonstrate co-operation with communities for the long-term stability and good of society.