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Ashton desperate for services, housing

Communities in Ashton are once again pleading the local Langeberg municipality to satisfy their demands, particularly for basic service delivery, providing water, sanitation and housing.

On Thursday 10 September upset members of the Zolani community came in uproar on the R62 between Ashton and the linked road between Montagu and Swellendam.

According to Ashton police, between 80 and 100 people protested by burning tyres and stacking rocks on the road, making it inaccessible from other towns.

“A case of public violence was opened, and provincial police services came to assist us,” WO Sylvester Joseph told Gazette.

“There were two accidents reported on the roads on the other side of the barricaded protest, and emergency services found it hard to access these accidents.

The Provincial Department of Public Works confirmed the protest and said it was illegal. It also asked motorists to be vigilant and to find alternative routes.

In June, the community of Ashton was outraged over the demolition of an informal structure, declared illegal by the municipality. Stones were thrown, gunshots fired and various shops in the town looted.

Major chaos erupted when the security relocation and eviction services the Red Ants descended on the informal settlement in Ashton on Friday 19 June and broke down a structure on instruction from the municipality.

The incident saw a few shops looted and vandalised in the ensuing violent uproar. It occurred soon after the Red Ants had demolished informal housing in Montagu and Robertson, leaving some people homeless.

The municipality made it clear informal and non-permitted houses and buildings would be demolished, as stipulated by the law.

The Ashton Informal Settlement & Backyard Dwellers Crisis Committee, dedicated to assisting the community as it takes issue with social problems, which affect most of its members, says it has tabled different meetings, discussions and open letters to the municipality, calling for better housing and service delivery generally.

In a letter sent in response to the community forum in August, the municipality stated that uproarious illegal protests are not welcome, and that it concurred with laws calling for the demolition of illegal houses.

Said Khanyile Klaas of the forum: “We understand that one of the most pervasive challenges facing our country is the need for government to redress poverty, underdevelopment, marginalisation of people and communities, and other legacies of apartheid and discrimination.

“We requested an engagement with the Langeberg Municipality regarding provision of Basic Services (Access to Clean Water, Decent Sanitation, Access to Electricity and Access Roads) in all Informal Settlements in the Langeberg Municipal Area, Land availability for Housing Development and the Demolition of Shacks.

“They afforded us the meeting opportunity on 2 September and we presented our story instead – the outcome aligned with our mission was not achieved.”

In response, new Executive Mayor Schalk van Eeden explained that he as a mayor wanted to collaborate with the community and eradicate issues such as this, but he also said funding should be sourced and the rules of the country should be obeyed too.

Klaas responded to this, saying: “The community was expecting the political leadership of the Langeberg Municipality to create a platform where all three spheres of governments meet and share responsibilities for housing development.

“It was for that reason the community embarked on a peaceful action last week, demanding the Langeberg Municipality return to the discussion table pertaining all listed grievances. Again, the Langeberg Municipality, after the intervention of the police, agreed to meet with us on Wednesday 16 September.”

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