JOHANNESBURG, Jan 7 (Reuters) – About three telecommunications towers belonging to Vodacom and MTN were burnt this week following a resurgence in conspiracy theories which link the emergence of COVID-19 to 5G technology, South Africa’s communication minister said on Thursday.
The towers were burnt and destroyed between Tuesday and Wednesday this week in KwaZulu-Natal province, the Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams said in a statement and also urged police to arrest those responsible “for this anarchy”.
“It is regrettable that the much-needed network infrastructure is being destroyed … mobile telephony is crucial in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic,” she said.
There was little to no impact on Vodacom’s network and the vandalised infrastructure is being repaired, Vodacom’s spokesman Byron Kennedy said in an emailed response.
“Vodacom would like to reiterate that there is no credible scientific evidence linking 5G or mobile technologies to the spread of coronavirus,” he added.
MTN echoed the same sentiment and added that the two MTN-owned towers that were burnt did not have 5G technology. MTN gave a higher overall figure than the minister, saying that four towers had been burnt in total, with two belonging to Vodacom.
A range of groups in South Africa, like those across the globe, have opposed the advent of 5G, mostly over concerns that radio waves could damage human health.
Health bodies like the World Health Organization and Public Health England have stated that no adverse health effects have so far been linked to 5G frequency exposure.
Both MTN and Vodacom began rolling out 5G across the country last year and aim to accelerate the roll out once spectrum has been auctioned by the end of March 31. (Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by Giles Elgood)
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