Boy, 4, shot in the head

Joshua Barber's father, John Barber, with community leader, Mieta Hofstander.

Described as a fun-loving and talkative child, the voice of 4-year-old Joshua Barber will no longer be heard in Pook se Bos after he was shot in the head by men who live in the same informal settlement.

People scattered in the informal settlement in Rylands on Monday March 4 when five armed men started chasing another man and gunshots rang out, said Pook se Bos informal settlement community leader, Mieta Hofstander.

Joshua ran home to his mother Hilda, father John and baby brother.

But the man who was being chased also ran into their house. A struggle ensued and the child was shot in his head.

Mr Barber ran to Ms Hofstander with the child who then stopped a passing car to take the family to hospital where Joshua later passed away.

Joshua is the middle of three siblings and he and his family have been staying in the settlement for 10 years.

“That morning at around noon I went down to the other committee members and I said it seems like something is wrong here because they were running up and down and then we heard one shot and another shot. When it was quiet and we went around to see what happened, the father came and people ran after him and I thought that he was shot and I looked at him and realised that the child was shot in his head on the right side,” said Ms Hofstander.

The Athlone News visited the family at home on Thursday March 7 but the child’s mother was too distraught to speak.

Ms Hofstander said the community fears for their lives now as this is the first time that a killing has happened in their community.

“We don’t know guns here. We always heard the shooting from Hanover Park but never here and even if there are guns here we’ve never seen it here for as long as we’re living here for 20 years,” she said.

The five men were arrested on Monday March 4 and one of them appeared in the Athlone Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday March 6.

The case was postponed to today Wednesday March 13.

The other four men were released as they could not be linked to the case, according to Athlone police station spokeswoman, Sergeant Zita Norman.

Joshua also attended the crèche which Ms Hofstander runs for the children of the informal settlement so that they could learn something and not just play outside.

She described him as a talkative child who was very inquisitive and said that he will be dearly missed.

“He was so cheerful and joyful and loved to play and talked so much. This has truly shocked us. There is always infighting like in any other community but nothing like this has happened before. We are traumatised by this but we all just have to go on,” she said.