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MBABANE – In the wake of the proposed installation of cellphone masts by MTN Swaziland, SNAT will embark on a consultation process as the towers will be set up next to schools in some areas.

This follows the ongoing debate over the proposed installation of the masts which are said to emit radioactive frequency. MTN has explained that this exercise is meant to improve network coverage and better quality services for its customers.

Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) Secretary General Muzi Mhlanga, in an interview with the Swazi News, said MTN should consider putting the project on hold pending further consultations on the concerns that have been raised.

Mhlanga said as SNAT they may consider writing a letter to Education International to find its position on the matter.
Last week, Swazi MTN held consultative meetings with residents of Mbabane and Ezulwini, which are some of the towns where the masts are intended to be installed next to residential areas.

In Mbabane there will be a mast within St Mark’s School yard and another within a residential plot in Dalriach East. There is also a pre-school nearby. In Ezulwini, one of the 22-meter tall antennas will be installed near Happy Valley and another at Mukela Township. 

Residents who attended the meetings strongly objected to the installation of the masts. One of their arguments was that “people living close to mobile phone masts (base stations) frequently report symptoms of electromagnetic hypersensitivity such as dizziness, headaches, skin conditions, allergies and many others, the mechanisms for which are only just beginning to be understood”.

Some parents argued that preliminary research results have shown that the network masts have negative impacts even to wildlife.
They further argued that they cannot risk exposing their young children to such danger and would rather have no cellphone network coverage than have the masts installed next to their homes.

“What I can say is that we are pleased with development. Technology has made the teaching, learning process much simpler. Some schools now use tablets and the world has become a global village because of technology,” said Mhlanga.

He acknowledged that this was not a new debate as cellphones, at some point, were also said to be dangerous when placed in close contact with one’s upper body.
“Since we are talking about people’s lives we must not compromise, even though there may be so many myths making rounds,” he went on to say.
Mhlanga said as teachers they could only take a stand or make comment once they have satisfactory scientific evidence of the dire health impacts that come with the network masts emissions. 

“Therefore, the projects must stop until we have satisfied ourselves that indeed they are no health implications that come with this technology.
“As SNAT we will consult with our friends in the international community to ascertain as to how other countries are handling this issue and whether our concerns are justifiable or we are just overreacting,” he further said.

“In Swaziland internet service is very slow. This is caused by the fact that our technology has not developed much.  We should not antagonise people against development unless there is scientific proof with victims who have suffered as a result of the negative impacts that this development brings.
“However, for now, we are cautiously saying the masts projects must be stopped until we have satisfied ourselves,” continued Mhlanga.

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