In a battle that has spanned almost two years, DACMA has claimed that MTN cell masts in the Glenwood area are emitting harmful radiation with cell masts that are not compliant with height regulations. MTN recently responded to these claims in what has become a deadlock.

“I have spent thousands on medical tests but I have to do it, I have to prove to people that these towers do harm you,” said Niki Moore of the Durban Anti-Cell Mast Alliance (DACMA).

Jacqui O’Sullivan, Executive for Corporate Affairs at MTN SA, said that MTN has initiated the process to gather all the required documentation for the Special Consent Application to the Land Use Department.
“To date, all towers meet the regulation guidelines.
“Our commitment is to follow the detail of the process, as defined by the municipality, to ensure full compliance. We will be entirely guided by the Land Use Department on this matter,” she said. EThekwini Municipality’s Deputy Head of Communications Mandla Nsele, said that the city cannot comment on the issue as these structures are approved based on a range of applicable norms and standards.

“The onus is on the complainants to demonstrate the extent to which there is non-compliance with the norms and standards,” added Nsele.
While O’Sullivan added that MTN will conduct emission tests on request for residents who have reported adverse health side effects, Moore said that it is too late as she has taken matters into her own hands by reading radiation levels herself and taking medical tests.

“I am already doing independent health tests. I have identified bio markers, a bio markers indicates that you have a specific condition. Radiation brings about three major bio marker: one is inflammation, radiation also interferes with your production of Melatonin which regulates your sleep patterns. The third bio marker is a low level of vitamin D. I have gone through those tests and am waiting for results. Once MTN’s mast is taken down, I am going to do the tests again and if my body has stabilised, then I will know that they are the culprits,” said Moore.

Moore added that DACMA was in the process of obtaining an interdict through the court because the masts were allegedly put up fraudulently. O’Sullivan, however, said that MTN is in constant communication with authorities.
“As a transparent and accountable corporate citizen, we are continually engaging with local authorities in all the regions in which we operate and are guided by them in terms of relevant by-laws and policies with a potential solution to be finalised within the coming months. MTN will openly engage with the affected community through a public participation process once all relevant municipal feedback is received,” said O’Sullivan.
PR Councillor for Wards 24 and 92, Caelee Laing and Ward 31 Councillor Christopher Pappas, who sits on the Town Planning Appeals Committee, said that they will not support the erecting of cell towers until the city conducts an independent study on the health effects of cell towers, a study on the impact on property values as well as providing an updated and comprehensive policy on telecommunications infrastructure in the city. Laing added that cell masts have been opposed in Westville.

“In Westville, objections have been raised in the past on the basis of health concerns. The objections to the city were not successful due to the stance of the World Health Organisation and the South African Government that there are no direct health effects from cell masts. There are many objections based on health risks that are turned down which is why we suggest that objections are based on town planning reasons,” said Laing. Cllr Pappas added that the problem may get worse in the future.”Earlier, masts were able to reach a much bigger radius because they dealt primarily with voice communication,” he said. “With 3G, 4G and upcoming 5G, masts cater to a smaller radius,” he added.
“In SA the industry is aiming to provide 100% coverage of the country by 2030,” he said .