Staff Writer 30 September 2020
An electronic communications network service licensee has the right to enter upon any land to construct electronic communications networks and facilities.
This was feedback from Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams who was answering a question in Parliament from the ACDP’s Wayne Maxim Thring.
Thring questioned Ndabeni-Abrahams on a new policy that seeks to give permission to allow mobile networks to build cell phone infrastructure, such as 5G towers, on private property.
He asked whether she has given “due consideration to health and environmental impact assessments that must be conducted for a policy that seeks to encroach on the property rights of South African citizens”.
Ndabeni-Abrahams responded, saying the Electronic Communications Act, 2005 allows telecoms providers to enter upon any land to construct electronic communications networks and facilities.
She added that a licensee must, when constructing networks, have due regard to applicable law and the environmental policy of the Republic.
Commenting on the new policy was aligned with the National Integrated ICT Policy White Paper and provides that a licensee must provide environmental and health information to the property owner in advance.
“The property owner or a licensee may, where the dispute has a significant impact on the environment, refer any difference or disagreement to relevant authorities,” she said.
“The Constitutional Court, in the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality and Link Africa case, confirmed the constitutionality of section 22 of the Act that the proposed policy is based on.”
New 5G policy next year
Ndabeni-Abrahams said they published the proposed policy and policy direction on the rapid deployment of electronic communications networks and facilities for comment on 22 July 2020.
She highlighted that this rapid deployment policy and policy direction, however, is not a 5G policy.
“The country’s 5G policy will be developed in 2021, and will also follow a public consultation process first,” Ndabeni-Abrahams said.
Commenting on the health and environmental impact of 5G, she said the South African government relies on studies conducted by the likes of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), World Health Organization (WHO) and International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).