iBurst takes down controversial Fourways tower - TechCentral

iBurst takes down controversial Fourways tower

This iBurst base station in Craigavon, Fourways has been taken down

Mystery surrounds a decision by iBurst to take down a controversial base station in Craigavon in Fourways, north of Sandton.

The company has been under intense pressure from some residents, who have wanted the tower removed as they claimed — among other things — that radiation from the mast was harming their health.

Craigavon resident Tracey-Lee Dorny, who has led the community’s fight against iBurst, says she is relieved the tower has been removed.

However, she says she can’t comment on the reasons it was taken down because she has signed a nondisclosure agreement with iBurst. She says only that there was an out-of-court settlement.

iBurst also isn’t talking. The company’s chief technical officer, Sasan Parvin, says he is not prepared to comment on the decision to dismantle the tower.

“This should be behind us now,” Parvin tells TechCentral. “To raise it again is to the benefit of no one. This is not good for us, the industry, or anyone.”

Dorny says neither she nor the Craigavon community made any payment to iBurst to have the base station removed. She won’t say whether iBurst admitted any liability in terms of the out-of-court settlement.

Dorny moved out of her Craigavon home last year claiming the tower was damaging her family’s health. “We are happy to be home, just in time for Christmas.”  — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral

  • Photo courtesy of Debbie Love

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  1. So these are the same people who were claiming the tower was making them sick, even though it had been switched off for months? People will believe anything…

  2. Would love to see this revisited in a few months again to see if these people health has actually improved. I suspect it will, not because the tower had evil magic making them sick – but because of the power of the mind when they think it did.

  3. Unfortunately, the majority of noise and attention has focussed on the so-called ‘health’ issues numerous residents were facing, very little attention was paid to the regulatory issues.

    Ex-CEO Jannie Van Zyl latched on to these ‘crazy’ people with imaginary health issues, and almost swung the entire debate in his favour. Ethically, unethically, who cares, he almost did a damn fine job of torpedoing the whole thing…

    The tower was dismantled because it was illegally erected and this has been the main issue from the get go, for most residents anyway.

  4. Nice work Garth, it is a pitty that this person did not study the issue before taking up the time in the legal system. I would like to know if this family uses cell phones or for that matter have family that stand near them will cellphones.

  5. I’m very pleased that iBurst finally relented and took it down. The tower was put up illegally, along with a plethora of others. iBurst tried to bypass the public consultation phase, and were caught out. The CEO, Jannie van Zyl, then tried to pull a stunt by telling lies about whether the tower was on or not, which prompted at least one criminal case. You just can’t decide to experiment with matters concerning public safety! Carte Blanche took the matter up in their TV programme, and Noseweek was also very critical of iBurst. All in all, public pressure was brought to bear – the iBurst CEO left under a cloud, and now the tower is no more. A victory indeed!

  6. I hope that it was taken down due to legal reasons, like lack of a license or something, and not due to pressure from idiots saying it’s making them sick or melting their brains. The day these looneys score a victory on their terms, a very dangerous precedent will have be set.

  7. Glad that this is finally resolved. Anybody still going on about health issues don’t know what they are talking about. The tower was erected illegally and had to be removed for that reason. The people directly involved can’t comment on the matter but I can.

    The former CEO, van Zyl, knew that the residents were not informed and the EIA officially filed show this. The company who did the EIA made it look after the issue became public like Dorney and others knew about it. They can only show their own signature. I also have iBurst’s application for a couple dozen of their other towers constructed illegally. The media spin they put on it at the time was that there were administrative issues. The truth is that they were fined for not following procedure with an agreement that no further action would be taken if they got permission for the towers.

  8. A very sad day indeed. It seems that due to a few crazies, the entire Craigavon community will suffer the loss of telecommunications services from iBurst. This will set a precedent for future telecoms companies wishing to do business in Craigavon, especially in light of HSPA+, Wimax, LTE and other wireless technologies that the future might bring. If we were a telecoms company, we’d steer clear of offering our services in this area.

    The Craigavon community had better hope that Telkom get their act together with regards to ADSL deployment and upgrades.

    A clear example of the sensationalist aspects of this story overtaking the clear issues, guess people see/hear/read what they want to.

    Set a precedent it will, forcing Telecoms company’s to FOLLOW THE LAW!

  10. @dantex I wish someone would come out with some evidence about the tower being illegal; so far we’ve seen as much proof about it’s legality as about it causing brain tumours (ie. zero) – then they could put the matter to rest in the media!

  11. The issue of whether electromagnetic radiation can cause cancer of other illness is all but decided by a few of the bloggers how silly. If you use the same methodology to prove there is harm as with cigarettes it will take decades as those with vested interests have deep pockets and lots of political friends. Lets rather support research that say we accept that it does possibly cause harm unless otherwise proved. If this approach had been used for smoking millions of lives would have been saved and billions saved on medical bills.
    The brain is an electrical device that uses minute electrical signals, logic says that it possible that electromagnetic radiation can affect these signals. After all it is an accepted fact that microchips can be similarly affected by electromagnetic radiation. I don’t say that there is damage being done or not, what I say is ignore the vested parties who use their power to cloud and discredit the real issues here and rather support research that say yes it does cause harm unless otherwise proved and lets research ways to mitigate the effects so that this technology can be used in a safe and positive way.

  12. @Greg, if you want all the details, go through to the local Council and request the EIA docs for that tower.
    But I will simplify this for you so you don’t need to get off your comfy couch:
    1) Fact: Most adjacent residents/property owners were not contacted by the EIA consultant as required be law.
    2) Fact: Most residents/property owners within 100m radius were not contacted by the EIA consultant as required by law.
    3) Fact: As justification for this mast as a business need, iBurst listed several commercial operations in the vicinity (post office, office blocks). In reality, this tower is smack bang in the middle of a suburb; there are no commercial operations within a 1km radius other than the cemetery; whose property it is erected on. Yes, dead people need iBurst bandwidth too it seems.

    These are just a few of the irregularities.

    Do you honestly believe that iBurst would settle with a bunch of ‘crazies’ if there were no legal issues? And then make all parties sign an NDA to not reveal the details of the settlement? Why would the 2 parties settle if the residents had no proof of any ailments caused by the tower? And according to Jannie’s (Ex iBurst CEO) now infamous stunt, the tower wasn’t even operating when some residents were complaining about symptoms. BOOM!

    This isn’t the only instance of iBurst pushing the boundaries of the law to get towers up quickly.
    Sasan is correct to say they want to put this behind them, it has been a highly embarrassing saga for iBurst; being caught with their hand in the cookie jar, then trying desperately to run interference hoping no would notice.

    Again, people are focusing on what iBurst wanted them to focus on; dem’ CRAZY Craigavon peoples!! The crazy people didn’t win, the law was enforced, simple.
    Next time try to get both sides of the story, the truth normally lies somewhere in the middle. Yes, I used the word lies intentionally…

  13. @dantex I don’t care enough about the details to do the work, but I wish that someone close to the issue would do the legwork and get those docs to shut the crazies up. (I live in KZN, so doing it isn’t an option anyway). You list a bunch of facts, which are probably true, but it’d be nice to see it in black and white for once. Quoting unsubstantiated facts were the tactics of the crazies.

  14. So, what has happened to iburst now… phone number unreachable, website gone…. customers left stranded?!?!?! Answers please. I realise it’s a public holiday but phone lines and websites don’t take leave… what the heck’s happened??? Iburst updated their domain yesterday and as of +- noon today 26/12/2010… no more service?!?!

  15. Greg, why do you not offer to have one 30 metres from your window ? This also has not been the only tower removed in South Africa ! The cell companies have had to remove them too or buy houses next to them !

    Ironically, do you see any CEO of these companies with a cell mast in their garden with all the service providers locked on ?? Why not ??? Surely it should be safe for their children to have one beaming through their window at the same rate of their other towers ????

    Please note the WHO also has on its database 2006 a study that shows 80% of the studies they have, show health effects around masts. There is also not one long term study that shows no effects around masts.

    Craigavon are not the crazies – They had the guts to take this on, to protect their families and property values. If you do not believe in the health issues then try selling your home with a mast on it or next to it ! Estate agents have had people even refuse to get out the car viewing a home near a mast.

    Thank goodness a new team of management and shareholders might have brought sanity and respectability to IBURST after what Jannie Van Zyl did to their reputation.

    The first company that stands up and acknowledges that there are issues and tries to minimise the impact on their actual client base, will be the one that is sustainable in the future.

    Remember the supposed crazies in the tobacco and asbestos eras ? Who laughed last then ?

    It should be a person’s choice if they want a tower blaring through their home 24/7 or for that fact even having to look at one 24/7 ! It should not be forced on them by greedy landowners and irresponsible companies. Proper EIA’s should be done and schools and residential areas protected.

    To the others – Craigavon had communication before the tower and still has now. Telkom and ADSL are working well as this response had been done using it !!!!!

    The matter has been put to bed and the respectable business people who are lawyers, doctors, nurses, top business owners and captains of industry – that you class as ” crazies ” in Craigavon have also closed this chapter.

    ( The Dainfern “crazies” who did their homework, had their Vodacom tower removed very quickly and quietly recently , but they have big hitters there and a few government officials ! Vodacom did not want a year or more of bad publicity either. Wise move ! )

    Be careful of how you judge a community or treat them as they are your customer base after all.

    There is so much you do not know.

    Get out and enjoy some fresh air!

    Educate yourself too sometime :


    Also look at the papers of Prof Olle Johannsen and Dr Henri Lai.

  16. @Magoo

    1. I wouldn’t want an aerial 30 meters from my window cos it’s ugly, not because I think it’s rotting my brain. It affects house prices more from an aesthetic point of view than a concern of radiation. This is easy to observe in real life, because in my suburb there are a number of very well disguised aerials (that everyone knows about) and they don’t affect the value of nearby properties.

    >Estate agents have had people even refuse to get out the car viewing a home near a mast.

    I don’t doubt this for a second. I’m sure there’s also people who won’t get out of a car to view a home near a mine dump or a slaughterhouse. I know for sure I wouldn’t buy a house near any of these.

    2. Is there any proof that the aerials were taken down because of health concerns, and not because they were illegal? Until there’s documents proving this either way, this is a point that can’t be used to argue.

    3. I’m not judging the community, I’m assuming it’s a tiny portion of thousands of people who think EMF is hurting them. Just like I’m sure there’s a few people in townships that still put their beds on bricks to keep away the tokoloshe.

    You assume I haven’t read up on this. Wrong. An overwhemling number of studies and tests point toward the radiation being insignificantly higher than normal background radiation in urban areas. Just because one can find a few sources that say otherwise, it doesn’t make it true. If you’re scared of radiation, then dig a bunker and hide from the sun.

    There are many scientists who say that man’s presence on earth hasn’t affected climate change, but luckily sanity has prevailed there and these minority of scientists don’t have enough of an influence to slow down scientific progress into alternative fuel sources. Same goes for nuclear power – always the anti-nuke-activists. And electricity has had its detractors over the years. There are counter-arguments to smoking asbestos, sometimes technology just works and doesn’t kill things.

    I looked at some of your sources – there’s more links in google discrediting them than supporting them; just taking a few

    a. http://www.emfandhealth.com/EMF&Health%20EHS%20Poor%20Studies%201.html – seems this lady has financial interests in proving EMF is dangerous.

    b. http://www.radiationresearchtrust.org is offline, maybe they were connected by wireless and had it disconnected?

    c. weepinitiative.org – a link here led me to cancer.org, to a 404 not found, so I sniffed around and it seems that even cancer.org pooh-pooh’s the idea of cellphone towers affecting human cells.

    I’ve indulged you and your links, and I’m not going to dig any further, as it seems these experts are the same as the climate change ones – they’re a vast minority, with research which is sketchy at best.

  17. Great news that this tower has been removed. It was clear from the beginning that proper lawful procedure in erecting it had not been followed. At one point iBurst produced their own consultant’s signature as “proof” that the surrounding community had been informed about the tower’s erection.

    As for former iBurst CEO Jannie van Zyl’s trickery: Perhaps someone can explain why I have an sms on my phone from van Zyl dated 13 November 2009 stating that the Craigavon tower was down “temporarily” due to a “power failure”, but that it will be up and transmitting “soon”? Later this very same day two separate phone calls were made to the iBurst call centre questioning the tower’s status: on both occasions it was confirmed that the Craigavon tower was in full working order. Jannie Van Zyl’s claim later on that the tower was actually off during this period is pure hogwash. Furthermore, following a meeting between the Craigavon residents and Van Zyl during the month of November 2009, van Zyl gathered Craigavon residents around himself while he very ostentatiously used his cellphone to (allegedly) call an employee at his office and ask that the Craigavon tower be switched off (following an agreement reached in the meeting). Van Zyl further said that he had requested the employee be at the office past his normal working hours in case of reaching such an agreement during the meeting with residents. In short, van Zyl put on a really good show for someone who would later turn around and claim that the tower had been off all along in any case! Personally, I do not believe the tower was ever switched off in the period August 2009-December 2010. Of course this matter of when the tower was on and whether it was ever turned off could easily be settled if Fourways Memorial Park- who are the landowners concerned- would produce their Eskom records for the period under question.

    “I wouldn’t want an aerial 30 meters from my window cos it’s ugly”

    Classic Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) attitude! For the record, Craigavon residents never claimed that health effects were the only matter of concern- in fact if you had followed the story closely from its beginnings you will note that the very first objections to the tower were based on aesthetics. Procedural irregularities and health issues were discovered later on. So Gary you say you wouldn’t have a tower in your backyard- but then you wish to deny others the right to object to having a tower placed in their back yards! That’s NIMBY defined.

    I became involved with the Craigavon tower in September of 2009. I was sceptical of the health claims for a long time- I was more concerned about the fact that this tower had been erected in the absence of due process, and, having seen the EIA application firsthand, I was concerned about the very blatant lies that van Zyl was telling with regard to the erection process followed. I have never made any claims on the alleged health impacts of living in close proximity to masts. Until now. Since becoming involved with the craigavon residents I have undertaken an exhaustive look at the evidence for and against alleged health effects from wireless technologies, including cellular phones. I not spoken on this for over a year while I was investigating. But now I feel I have done my homework, and thus am in a position to make comment. And my comment is this-

    1) There is a major health risk with the current use of wireless technologies.
    2) The industry is aware of these risks.
    3) There are major efforts to conceal the evidence and obfuscate the debates on this matter.

    I hope that in 2011 more South Africans will start waking up to the dangers of their excessive cellphone and wireless usage. We are way behind world trends on education and understanding in this domain. The removal of the Craigavon tower is a significant step in reversing this.

  18. @debbie

    >Classic Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) attitude!

    Yup, and I don’t pretend it’s not. Cellphone towers arent the only thing that determines property value, it’s one of a thousand factors. Some people will be overjoyed at the presence of a cellphone tower near a house, as it would devalue the property so that they can live in a safer, more upmarket environment. I know someone who snapped up a house in an area he could never otherwise afford cos he could see high voltage power lines from his back porch. He couldn’t be happier about the crappy view! I’m just fortunate that I can afford to be picky. I wouldn’t want a cliff in my back yard. Or a factory. Or a church. Or a school. NIMBY is personal preference, nothing more.

    I have absolutely no argument that Van Zyl handled the whole situation terribly. Him and the media both fed into the hysteria about the health issues and made the story about that, and that alone.

    I have no problem with people objecting to towers based on aesthetics, but your closing 2 paragraphs CLEARLY illustrates this isn’t your motivation.

    What are you doing receiving SMSes anyway? Isn’t that kind of like a vegetarian wearing leather shoes? What’s the end-game for the anti-wireless crowd? To totally eliminate wireless tech from the world? Or to only have wireless services in sparesly populated areas, which will be the only possible outcome if one can’t safely build towers a few hundred meters from citizens.

    Not sure who Gary is. If I see him, I’ll pass the message along.

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