Cellphone mast causes hell for church and community

18 December 2017 - 18:06 By Anthony Molyneaux

A cell phone tower is set to go up 10 metres away from a church in Heathfield, Cape Town. Church-goers and residents are fighting against it.

A 21-metre cell phone mast which will be erected metres away from a church has unleashed fury in a Cape Town community.

A group of Eternal Flame Church members and residents of the Heathfield community took to the streets to picket with signs stating “No cell towers” and “Radiation kills” at the mast's site.

Pastor Charles White said his church is there to save their congregation not to irradiate them. “We feel that this cell phone tower will endanger our health as well as the community’s health. We are not protesting against cell phone masts in general‚ we are protesting against cell phone masts in such close proximity to people‚” said White.

Resident Helen Hoekstra demanded to be heard by the authorities. “We want to stop this tower from going up because once it’s up‚ it’s almost impossible to get it down again.” According to Hoekstra and documents seen by TimesLIVE‚ the process of attempting to raise the mast on this piece of land has been ongoing for two years.

“In those two years of appeals by our community‚ we succeeded in preventing the mast being erected but now they have gone ahead regardless of our feelings. We all feel very disappointed because no matter how much noise we make‚ no matter how many times we win a case‚ we still have no voice‚” said Hoekstra.

In the documents seen by TimesLIVE the City of Cape Town’s Mayor Advisory Panel acknowledged that the Municipal Planning Tribunal refused the initial cell tower application due to numerous reasons.

However‚ the panel then appealed this process due to the National Department of Health’s mandate on the safety of cell towers:

"At present‚ there is no confirmed scientific evidence that points to any health hazard associated with the very low levels of exposure that the general public would typically experience in the vicinity of a cellular base station.”

The cell tower was given the go-ahead by Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille after stating that the cell tower “will have great social and economic utility‚ will not introduce high¬ impact activities to the area and will not jeopardise the surrounding community. Cellular masts are supporting services infrastructure that is necessary in order to grow the local economy.”

But an angry Sylvia Mtwesi who has a house in very close proximity to the site of the mast disagrees with the Mayor’s approval: “We stay very close to this thing‚ why can’t they protect our health? They only care about money. There hasn’t been long-term proof that these things don’t cause damage.

We are going to be here forever‚ we bought these houses‚ where must we go now?” Pastor White rented a space below a Telkom mast for 10 years before moving to this new location. “During that period I lost a lot of hair. Since moving away from that mast‚ my hair has grown back and it’s not due to stress‚ this church doesn’t give you stress‚ the devil does.”

Healthfield’s ward councillor referred TimesLIVE to the sub council department which couldn’t be reached for comment.