Citizens’ right to know

There’s something of a cruel irony in the fact that cellphone masts are supposed to help improve communication and yet it seems no-one can, or wants to, hear residents who complain about them going up in their neighbourhoods.

The masts have become so contentious, in part due to the health fears, that residents seem to have become increasingly suspicious of what they see as attempts to sneak them into their neighbourhoods.

The usual response from the City in approving many of these applications is that there is no scientific proof that radiation from the masts is hazardous to human health. This is far from reassuring for many who argue that the absence of evidence proving harm doesn’t mean they are safe. And a “100 percent safe” stamp is what many would like to see on something erected so routinely next to schools, creches and hospitals. But radiation fears aside, the strong winds in this city mean that it’s vital that large structures are properly inspected and approved before going up. Building approval is not just a “nice to have”. It means public safety has been considered. When shortcuts get taken, someone gets hurt or dies. In November, 2012, a woman was killed and 20 people were injured after scaffolding supporting an advert collapsed before a Linkin Park concert at Cape Town Stadium. A few months later, in March 2013, a couple were seriously injured when scaffolding collapsed on them at the V&A Waterfront. It had been put up by a contracted rigging company.

Telkom representative, Jacqui O’Sullivan says public participation wasn’t needed in this case, but the distribution of forms seeking resident’s consent says otherwise. Somebody has their lines crossed, it seems.