Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams’ plans to give telecommunications companies the right to build on private land – without even having to pay in some cases – have raised the hackles of property owners around the country.

According to a report in The Citizen, the Minister published the proposal with a call for public comments last week.

By early this week, almost 38 000 responses had been received by Dear South Africa – which provides an online platform through which members of the public can make their submissions – alone.

One reads: ‘I do not support the installation on private property. That is an infringement on my asset and should be approved by me as a private property owner first! This is completely disrespectful and infringes on my personal rights.'

The proposed policy would give network service providers the right ‘to enter upon and use public and private land for the deployment of electronic communications networks and facilities,’ with no obligation to pay the landowner for the use of this land.

Legal expert Paul Hoffman SC says the question at hand is whether the legislation operated in a way that was consistent with the Constitution.

Hoffman says while rights of ownership could be limited in certain circumstances, this had to be done in a way that was reasonable and justifiable in an open democratic society, the report in The Citizen adds.

‘And my thinking is that it is not reasonable to take away rights of ownership without compensation,’ he says.

Political analyst Sandile Swana, meanwhile, believes Ndabeni-Abrahams is ‘on the right track’ with the proposed policy.

He says South Africans would have to compromise on some of their rights in order for the country to embrace the fourth industrial revolution – including their rights of ownership.

Full report in The Citizen