The Supreme Court of Appeal has, in a unanimous judgment, affirmed the City of Cape Town’s constitutional mandate to regulate and control the use of land within its municipal borders. The judgment sets an important precedent that all telecommunications service providers, inclusive of state-owned Telkom, must obtain the City’s approval prior to installing cellphone masts in Cape Town.
Read more below:
The judgment was delivered on 25 September 2019 and followed on from an appeal Telkom lodged after the Western Cape High Court ruled in the City’s favour.
‘The City welcomes the Supreme Court of Appeal’s judgment, as well as the decision to dismiss Telkom’s appeal with costs. With this judgment the SCA has once again affirmed the constitutional validity of the City of Cape Town’s Municipal Planning By-law, and our Telecommunications Mast Infrastructure Policy,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Spatial Planning and Environment, Alderman Marian Nieuwoudt.
The SCA in its judgment dismissed Telkom’s argument that it was free to install telecommunications stations – commonly referred to as cellphone masts – at a location of its choice and without prior approval from the City.
All land units within Cape Town’s municipal boundaries have a base zoning that determines what the land can be used for, and how the land may be developed. This zoning, among others, is indicated in the Development Management Scheme that is included in the Municipal Planning By-law (MPBL).
In 2017 Telkom installed a cellphone mast in Heathfield, in the Far South, without prior approval from the City. The zoning of the land does not permit the installation of a cellphone mast, and when the City informed Telkom that it was in breach of the MPBL, the company approached the Western Cape High Court to challenge the constitutionality of the MPBL and the City’s Telecommunications Mast Infrastructure Policy. At the time, Telkom planned to install 135 masts across Cape Town and went ahead and installed seven masts without obtaining the City’s approval.
The City opposed Telkom’s application in the Western Cape High Court, as well as in the SCA matter.
‘Telkom argued that the MPBL does not apply to them and that they are free to install cellphone towers wherever they deem fit, irrespective whether the land is zoned for that use or not. I’m pleased that the SCA dismissed this argument and that the judgment concurs with the order from the Western Cape High Court last year that Telkom is bound by the Municipal Planning By-law like all other developers and landowners in Cape Town,’ said Alderman Nieuwoudt.
Issued by: Media Office, City of Cape Town
Media enquiries: Alderman Marian Nieuwoudt, Mayoral Committee Member for Spatial Planning and Environment, City of Cape Town, Tel: 021 400 5154 or Cell: 084 224 0023, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (please always copy email@example.com)
Note from EMFSA:
What is omitted from the above media release:
It should not be necessary for communities and residents to be the watchdogs. Behind the scenes – the hard work from the community and activists, the amount of e mails that were ignored (or went round in circles). And what about the other illegal towers? Is it going to take the community yet again to instigate action or will the City ensure that they are removed immediately?