Cape Town, South Africa: Illegal Heathfield Mast – Activists Fought Injustice

In a Supreme Court judgement of the 25th of September 2019 Telkom lost its Appeal. For activists it brings to close a long and hard battle.

This case is about a community – all of us – standing together to fight injustice:

 

Image: Heathfield,  4th Avenue, where families reported that their children regularly become ill.

-D Rowland assisted the community with her usual tenacity and pursued the matter relentlessly.

-Kay Wentzel, spokesperson for her Heathfield community.

-The late Muna Lakhani* , Justine Hansen from EMRSA and Olga Sheean. 

17 May 2017 – Mrs Kay Wentzel’s letter to the City of Cape Town ( CoCT) :

In 2016 during the month of March, Telkom erected an illegal freestanding mast at house no 47, 4th road, Heathfield. No due process was followed. To this day, the mast still stands and is operational. This is a violation of the city’s telecommunications infrastructure policy. The city has acknowledged the mast to be illegal (emails archived since 2016- 2017 for your request).

Ms XXX ( details removed)  – I am sure you have been informed of this matter along with so many others. Our communities have been impacted negatively and we need the city’s support in having the masts removed.

After my husband passed in 2013 I was given the opportunity to invest in the suburb Heathfield after twenty five years of renting. I purchased a ruined home in 2014, did eight months of renovation and finally felt content,safe and home. The feeling of owning a home, a space that is yours to enjoy and embrace with your family. The content feeling was short lived due to the illegal mast being erected in close proximity to my home. I would not purchase a property if towers were visible, so clearly this has an impact on our investment.

How do we move forward in a positive manner to ensure our community has peace of mind knowing their health and investment won’t be compromised. Our answer would be to have the masts removed and alternative options to be explored and considered.

I trust this letter is read with compassion for people and a healthy Cape.

I thank you in advance and appreciate your assistance in this regard.

On behalf of our community.  K Wentzel

Note: For over two years the community was subjected to the radiation output from this illegal tower. (The mast was only deactivated after the last high court ruling in May 2018).

Despite strong objections from the community and countless letters to city officials (including the Mayor Patricia de Lille) the tower remained operational. Only after its erection and the uproar of the community was the community notified of the objection application process. Many further emails to Mayor Patricia de Lille were ignored. Requests for a  meeting with the communities of Heathfield, Mitchell’s Plain, Forest Glade and Manenberg to discuss cell tower placements were denied because the mayor’s calendar was ‘booked up’.

 Ms Rowland appealed to MEC Minister Anton Bredell with her correspondence being forwarded to Ms Bettie Leedo – Head of Environmental Affairs. Councillor  Kevin Southgate became involved and supported investigation of the process involved in placement of this tower.

 

This case was featured in a document written at Ms Rowlands’ request, by Canadian Olga Sheean ‘Challenging the towers that be’ – an appeal to Cape Town Councillors – emailed during December 2016 and copied to ALL in authority within this city to implement change (including Mayor Patricia de Lille). NO confirmations of receipt were ever received by Ms Sheean.

Finally, 27th of September 2019, OVER THREE YEARS after the mast was erected:
Ms Wentzel comments about  the Supreme Court judgement:

Today is a day of absolute gratitude to all those involved in creating a voice of rejection for the erection of a cell mast in our neighborhood. This has been fought relentlessly and Denise Rowland has shown no signs of backing down. An absolute honor meeting you on this journey and it exemplifies through unity we can achieve a desired result.

My community namely Heathfield whom I became an activist for during these invasive cell tower erections appreciates the efforts and support of all involved.

We trust the ruling would set precedent for more illegal masts to fall.

Communities should voice their dissatisfaction and support each other through the process, it’s tedious but don’t give up.”

In June 2019  EMFSA commented:

How many more similarly unlawfully erected cell towers are there across South Africa?

Municipalities should, as standard practice, prevent illegal towers from being erected in the first place – it should not be necessary for communities to play the role of the watchdog. To cite lack of manpower to monitor these events is unacceptable.

Who is paying for all these court cases? How much is it costing the taxpayer?

EMFSA requests an urgent public investigation into this matter by the authorities.

*The 22nd 0f September was Muna Lakhani’s birthday. We are sorry that Muna is no longer with us to share the good news of the Supreme Court Judgement.

References:

Four cell towers metres from where children live and play – South Africa

Unlawful cell towers South Africa – legal precedent set by court and future implications.

 

Telkom vs City of Cape Town:Telkom heads for the Supreme Court!

Telkom loses court appeal over location of cellphone masts in Western Cape

Letter: Cellphone tower controversy