Company does not need Msunduzi’s permission to install network

2014-10-02 00:00

THE Supreme Court of Appeals has confirmed that national electronic networks company Dark Fibre Africa does not need permission from the Msunduzi Municipality to install an optic fibre cable network in the city.

The court yesterday upheld an earlier ruling by Judge Esther Steyn in the Pietermaritzburg high court in which she found that Dark Fibre Africa had an absolute right in terms of licences issued under the Electronic Communications Act of 2005 to carry out construction on both public and private land, and that it didn’t need the municipality’s permission.

The court said yesterday that Msunduzi’s application to halt the work was “misconceived” and based on an incorrect interpretation of the act — that the consent of a public authority was required before the licencee could commence its work.

Yesterday’s judgment spells the end of Msunduzi’s legal battle with Dark Fibre Africa, dating back to February this year when the municipality went to court to interdict the company to stop construction, pending a court review of its conduct.

Thego Distshego of Dark Fibre Africa said the ruling is “not only a win for Dark Fibre Africa, but for the industry as a whole”. He said the company would continue to engage with the municipality on “practical matters” related to building their network in the city.

Distshego said they had been engaged in digging trenches to build links for government entities with the city and were surprised to be stopped by a local government entity.

Msunduzi spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said they had just received the ruling and were studying it.

She said the issue was not unique to Msunduzi and that Section 22 of the act in its current form had enormous implications for landowners, whether private or public. She added that there was also a shortcoming in the act in that the exercise of the rights under Section 22 — which is required to be reasonable and procedurally fair under the Constitution — has not been regulated.

“In the absence of national legislation, we are busy with drafting bylaws to regulate the exercise of powers in terms of Section 22,” Mafumbatha said.

She added that similar to Dark Fibre Africa, a company with a Section 22 licence, there were other licensees in the country who were all competing for space.

“We have received a number of such applications from these companies to do work in the city. A special committee consisting of a number of different disciplines meets with these companies to reach agreement on issues that impact on the city — including safety, traffic and engineering.”

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