Residents of Constantia in Cape Town have won a legal battle against MTN to have a “visually intrusive” cellphone mast taken down.
The seven-year legal battle cost the residents R2.5 million and was centred around a 5-metre cellphone mast “disguised as a chimney”, reported the Sunday Times.
It was reported that MTN asked the residents permission to upgrade the tower to support 3G in 2012 – but the upgrade was not authorised by the City of Cape Town.
When the tower was upgraded, it was more “more extensive and visually intrusive” than what the residents had agreed to, said Vincent Murphy – who led the case for the residents.
Their battle against MTN did not get off to a smooth start, however, and when the residents first took on the mobile network operator in the High Court in 2015, and won their case, MTN took it to the Supreme Court of Appeal.
The Supreme Court of Appeal overturned the judgement and the residents then took the matter to the Constitutional Court – which ruled in their favour this week.
Murphy said the case was only related to the “legality of the mast” and had nothing to do with the potential health issues of cellphone towers. He added that while they were happy with the victory, he would not go through a legal battle like this again.
MTN told MyBroadband it will comply with the decision of the Constitutional Court.
“It should be noted that the decommissioning of the site, the removal of the equipment, and the rehabilitation of the area will take about a month to complete. In the meantime MTN has switched off the site. Unfortunately, some customers within the vicinity of the site will be adversely affected by the reduced coverage and signal quality,” said MTN.
The erection of cellphone towers in residential areas has been a point of contention for many residents in South African.
Whether it is the “adverse health effects” of having a tower nearby or the “unsightly nature” of the structure, mobile operators have faced battles such as the one in Constantia before.
In 2017, residents in Johannesburg neighbourhoods fought the erection of cellphone towers and “4G street poles” which were installed without their approval.
This included the installation of a 30m cellphone tower on the property of the Old Apostolic Church in Craighall.
According to the residents, the tower was built too close to their properties and they were not consulted.
Residents in Lonehill had similar concerns, and were unhappy with the erection of 4G cellular towers disguised as street poles.
At the time the residents argued that the Lonehill Residents Association gave permission for the towers to be built, which it did not have the authority to do.