‘Halt cellphone tower project’

Crawford residents protest outside Thornton Road Primary School, saying they were not consulted over the construction of a cellphone tower.

Crawford residents picketed outside Thornton Road Primary School in protest against a cellphone tower that is being put up there.

They say they were not alerted to the installation until hearing about it on a community chat group, and they want it stopped.

Oswald Jacobs said no letters or notices had been dropped at residents’ homes, and there had been no advertisement in the newspapers.

“Apparently all protocols have been followed and a notice was placed on the school fence. I find this woefully inadequate, as most residents would walk or drive past and not be able to read it or even notice it. I demand that this project be halted and the proper legal channels be followed, including that of public participation.”

Maqbul Mukuddem said he was worried about the possible health implications.

“I live opposite Thornton Road Primary School. Being so close to the erected 5G towers, my concerns include the effect of this technology on our health. No consideration was given to the schoolchildren or the community. Such actions overshadow concerns about the effect of the technology on the health of humans.

“As early as 2011, the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) International Agency for Research on Cancer classified radio frequency electromagnetic fields as being possibly carcinogenic, which means it may cause cancer… We are appealing to the government for an immediate moratorium on the deployment and construction of 5G towers and demand that the government fund the research needed to understand, control and overcome the possible harmful exposure risks and limits of us humans to the millimetre wave radiation before exposing us all,” Mr Mukuddem said.

He admitted there was no “hard evidence” to support his health concerns but insisted that possible negative effects could not be ruled out.

“Why use us as guinea pigs?” he asked.

Isgak Rossier, another resident, said he was also concerned about health implications.

“From what I have read, this is not a good thing, especially where people’s health is concerned. I don’t believe the proper procedures have been followed either.”

The community has started a civic organisation in response to the tower going up.

Trevor Jacobs has been elected the interim chairperson of the Crawford Action Group, until such time that the civic group is formalised.

“The community of Crawford is in uproar, because we were not adequately or appropriately informed or involved, and we want this development halted immediately.

Western Cape Education Department (WCED) spokeswoman Bronagh Hammond said the protest had not interrupted teaching.

“Provisional approval for the installation was granted in 2017 by the WCED on condition that certain requirements were approved by the Department of Transport and Public Works. In some cases, approval may need to come from the City of Cape Town.

“Governing bodies of public schools on state property must submit an application for the approval of the proposed installation of a cellular mast and base station on the school premises to the WCED,” Ms Hammond said.

A school governing body could strike a deal with cellular network providers under certain conditions, including that rental be paid into the school account and be used for educational purposes, she said.

According to Ms Hammond, the conditions also state that “should research prove at some future date that these cellular masts or base stations emit radiation which is harmful to the health of children and residents living near the mast base station, the WCED and the school are absolved of all legal and medical costs”.

These costs must then be borne by the owners of the cellular mast and base station.

The City of Cape Town said the tower complied with all requirements and no objections to it had been received. But the City had still not answered detailed questions from the Athlone News by the time of going to print.