Activists have slammed the government’s draft policy that will allow cellular networks to install 5G masts on private and public property as a violation of constitutional property rights.
Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams gazetted the new policy on the deployment of communications networks, which aims to accommodate the rapid expansion of electronic communications networks, such as LTE and 5G networks across South Africa.
The policy gives mobile networks and other licensees the right to select, enter, and use public or private land for the deployment of their network infrastructure. The public has until tomorrow to submit comments on the policy which will shape future legislation.
According to the policy document, the guidelines will help to enable the rapid and unhindered deployment of many 5G towers nationally.
“Significant effort must be made by all spheres of government to enable the rapid deployment of electronic communications networks and facilities since these networks are critical enablers for our advancement as a country in the 4th Industrial Revolution.”
The policy document also stipulates that if the electronic communications networks are damaged “due to the fault of a property owner reasonable compensation agreed to between the property owner and the electronic communications network service licensee is payable”.
Property owners may not charge companies for building infrastructure on their property, except under certain conditions where more intrusive electronic communications networks or facilities, such as masts, are erected.
“In such cases, any access fee must be reasonable in proportion to the disadvantage suffered and must not enrich the property owner or exploit the electronic communications network service licensee,” the policy states.
Founder of citizens’ rights group DearRSA, Rob Hutchinson, said the policy was in conflict with several clauses of the Constitution relating to property rights as well as with municipal by-laws.
“Section 36 of the Constitution gives you the right to do what you want on your property and to protect your property, and this overrules that. And you have to take care of their structures they erect on your property and compensate them if it gets damaged,” Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson urged citizens to comment on the policy which he said would result in the erection of many electronic structures.
“The nature of the 5G network itself is that it does not have a long range and has to have repeater masks. It does not travel through concrete structures so it is what the minister calls (in the policy document) a massive network, it has to be high density of structures,” he said.
Stop 5G South Africa activist Emma Kelly said the move to roll out 5G on private property was “diabolical” and a health hazard. She said the policy document was “a violation of our human rights”.
“Given that 5G has not been tested for safety and, therefore, is an experiment on human subjects, without their consent or knowledge, is a direct violation of the Nuremberg Code. There are plenty of peer-reviewed documents proving harm from 2, 3 and 4G technology,” she said.
“How on earth is it that government and telecommunication companies think they have the right to force this harmful technology onto people on their private properties, which they have worked their entire lives to pay for? What is it going to do to the value of homeowner’s properties, let alone the health of themselves and their families, as well as their natural surroundings?”
“The public needs to be properly informed of the potentially harmful effects of radio-frequency waves and their role in cancer and other serious medical conditions.”
GroundWork director Bobby Peek said public participation was vital for the roll out of telecommunications advancement such as 5G.
“In the townships cellphone towers are going up willy nilly without public participation and we must make sure when we roll out 5G it does not increase the gap between the rich and the poor,” he said.