It is required by law for telecoms companies to obtain approval for the construction of base stations, but according to Simela Dube, the city council’s Director of Engineering Services, Telecel was violating the Regional, Town and Country Planning act together with municipal by-laws.
Fourteen base stations were constructed illegally by Telecel throughout Bulawayo, according to the city council. The reason for Telecel’s rapid expansion is due to the company wanting to increase its subscriber base from two million to 2.7 million.
“The illegally developed base stations were either on virgin council land, private properties or on council tower lights,” read the city council’s latest minutes report. The tower lights invaded by Telecel include the Bulawayo townships of Emakhandeni, Lobengula, Mpopoma, Mzilikazi and Nkulumane.
The city council has since requested the intervention of the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) since attempts at getting Telecel to comply with municipal by-laws allegedly failed.
Speaking toNews Day, Francis Chimanda, Telecel’s spokesperson, maintains the company did comply with the by-laws. “It is our understanding that the applications were tabled before a full council meeting in December 2012 and Telecel is currently waiting for the formal communication regarding those applications. Telecel has also followed all the other procedures including neighbour notifications and placing adverts in the press.”
Last year a similar incident occurred when a group of residents in Harare accused both Telecel and Econet of setting up base stations in the city illegally.