Cellular tower fears

The free standing telecommunication base station in Manenberg.

Manenberg residents are angry about a cell tower that has been put up at a church, saying it was done without their permission and can make them sick.

Community Safety Forum chairwoman, Roegshanda Pascoe, says she started getting calls from people on Thursday April 16, asking why the tower was being built at the Apostolic Faith Mission. She says no one notified residents and now they’re worried radiation from the tower will give them cancer.

She said the church on the corner of Renoster and Pecos roads had been battling financially and she suspected it wanted rental from the company that owned the tower.

“The church said to me that there is no danger affiliated to the tower, but they don’t even know what the purpose of the tower is. There are so many loopholes and unanswered questions, we need to know what the purpose of it will be,” said Ms Pascoe.

The tower is surrounded by a precast-concrete wall.

“Last year, in November, they started the installation at the church, but the gangs stole the cables and poles.

“Now they have erected it again,” Ms Pascoe said. “People are scared of getting cancer because lots of people are dying of cancer in Manenberg, of TB, and other respiratory illnesses. We know that being exposed to radiation kills you slowly not suddenly. People in Mitchell’s Plain have also complained about this. They go sleep with headaches and wake up with one, clearly their bodies are not used to whatever it is being exposed to.”

She added: “Why can we not have communication with residents? In the leafier suburbs, they consult the community before they do things, but here they don’t do anything.”

Eunice Snyders stays about 10 metres from the church. She said a City official had told her it was standard procedure to notify residents before a cell tower went up. But Ms Snyders said she knew of only a few elderly residents who had been consulted about the tower and had signed approval for it.

“The seniors don’t even know what the thing was about or what they signed for,” she said. “When I spoke to the one lady, she said she thought it was a netball pole. The church lady said that a notice was put up in front of the church a year ago for the thing to be put up, but we are all here at the back. That thing is about five metres away from the first house.”

According to her, radiation from the tower is interfering with electronics and appliances in her home: her TV screen goes blue suddenly, her phone freezes or the apps malfunction and her microwave only warms up the one half of a dish.

People in the area were also getting more frequent headaches, she said. And she claimed local schools had refused to have cell towers on their grounds because of the dangers.

Mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment Marian Nieuwoudt said the application for the tower had been submitted in August 2018, and registered letters about it had been sent to surrounding property owners; the City’s human settlements department, which owns most of the houses in the vicinity; and the ward councillor, but no one had objected so approval had been given on June 24 2019.

According to the World Health Organisation, there is currently no convincing scientific evidence that radiofrequency (RF) signals from base stations and wireless networks can cause cancer and the signals are lower or comparable to RF exposures from radio or television broadcast transmitters. Also no consistent evidence of altered sleep or cardiovascular function was reported.

Mayco member for community services and health Zahid Badroodien said the City could monitor radiation levels from the tower to check they complied with standards set by the International Commission on Non-ionizing Radiation Protection.

A woman named Monica, who refused to give her surname but identified herself as a member of the church, said the pastor did not want to comment on the matter. She also refused to give his name and surname and also his contact number. The Athlone News also tried calling the church’s landline but there was no answer. Emails to the church went unanswered and attempts to get comment from the church’s head office in Pretoria also proved unsuccessful.