Vindication, relief and gratitude that justice prevailed are some of the sentiments expressed by Constantia residents after the Western Cape High Court set aside a building approval granted by the City of Cape Town allowing MTN to erect a base telecommunications station, including a 14.5m mast. On November 28 last year, about 90 residents in the Strawberry Lane area congregated in Spaanschemat River Road and then marched along Strawberry Lane and into Dalham Road where the MTN cell mast stands (“Protest against cell mast”, Bulletin, December 4).
Nicola Marshall, who lives adjacent to the cellphone tower, said the ruling has far reaching implications as it prevents MTN and the City from erecting base stations and cellphone masts across the Constantia Valley under the pretext that such infrastructure is temporary.
“The greater community of Strawberry Lane has been opposing cellphone masts for over 18 years due to the serious concerns over health and devaluation of properties. We look forward to the removal of MTN’s base station and cellphone mast,” said Ms Marshall. They had marched, signed petitions, launched websites and had met with cellphone company executives to explain their views and position.
Resident Justine Hansen said in the 1990s it took two years to have an illegal Vodacom mast removed from the Bible College. In 2011, they again took action when a second mast was erected on that site. “There are no suitable mast sites in this Strawberry Lane area, hence strong community opposition as reflected in a neighbourhood poll just before the (2014) protest where 142 out of 151 signed a petition against the Dalham Road mast, a similar result to a 2011 petition signed by 91% of homes polled.”
In his judgment, Judge Rogers looked at whether or not the base station was a temporary structure, saying two requirements had to be met for any building to qualify as temporary. This included that it must be declared so by the owner and it must be one which is being used, or will be used, for a specified purpose and for a specified period of time. Judge Rogers said he was sure that MTN did not intend to use the base station for only five years.
Speaking on behalf of the CPOA, Chris Rousseau said: “Another one that the City lost with costs.” Ms Hansen said the judge did not rule when the mast must be removed, only saying it must be sorted out by council and MTN, who have been given 20 court days to respond. She said the community remains vigilant and ready should the mast not be removed.