South African killed in Nairob

South African killed in Nairobi terror attack ‘would have died forgiving’

The South African man killed in the Nairobi Westgate mall terrorist attack has been named as ‘gentle giant’ James Thomas.

South African killed in Nairob

James ThomasOFFICIAL2

Tributes to the South African “gentle giant” killed in the Nairobi Westgate mall attack have poured in since news of his death.

James Thomas, 57, was killed by a member of the al-Shabaab terrorist organisation whilst on a work trip in Nairobi.

He lived in Mowbray, Cape Town, with his wife of 33 years, Colleen and his nephew Sipho Johnson. He has two daughters, Sarah and Julie.


Despite his death against a backdrop of violence and terror, his legacy will be one of forgiveness, his family said in a statement.

“He lived forgiving and would have died forgiving,” they said.

His family have “expressed heartfelt thanks for all the support, practical assistance and expressions of condolences they have received since their husband and father passed away over the weekend.”

His daughter Julie posted the picture below on her Facebook page in June 2013 with the caption “So lucky to have this man as my father:) Love you”.

Thomas replied, “Love you wonderful and trailblazer Julie! Big hugs, Dad!”


Work trip

At the time of his death, Thomas was on a work trip trialling a game he had developed to a group of Kenyan entrepreneurs.

The game aimed to teach African entrepreneurs essential business skills through the use of African animals.

On this trip the group visited the Westgate mall in Nairobi. As Thomas walked away from his colleagues after he went through the supermarket checkout, the shooting started.

“In the subsequent chaos James was separated from his friends, who took shelter for a while and then managed to find their way out of the mall,” explained Thomas’ local church leader Rev. David Meldrum.

“We spent Saturday and Sunday morning agonising as we depended on James’ friends for news, but they could not find him.

“They later identified his body in a morgue and called us…with the terrible news,” Meldrum said.

Gentle giant

Thomas was “a gentle giant known for his bear hugs and his complete intolerance of poverty and unemployment” the family said.

He had an active role in his community, where he was warden at St. Peter’s Church in Mowbray and chairman of the Cape Town Youth Choir.

Colleeen, a Callanetics teacher and musician, described her husband as a “creative visionary, determined to see people flourish and reach their goals.

“He knew how to love fully, and so without reserve,” she said.

“He had a deep passion that drove him — he hated to see anyone unemployed. It pushed him to be a trainer of entrepreneurs.

“He simply would not rest until he saw that person fully developed,” she said.

Thomas launched his own development consultancy Just Think in 2000, which developed materials for both adult and youth learners.


Thomas’ career path clearly shows he is “an encourager, an optimist and a thorough entrepreneur”.

It includes the South African Insitute for Entrepreneurship, Liquid Icon, Triple Trust Organisation, Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, Unicef and Kenya Markets Trust.

Some of these companies took to Twitter to send their condolences.

“Colleague, valued contributor & creative genius – James Thomas died in the Westgate attack. Prayers for his family,” said @AllanGrayOrbis.

@DomMonamaSA said: â€œI did an interview assessment with James two years back, truly a great person, may his soul RIP.”

“Such an extraordinary soul. RIP James,” said @agentjanty.

His entrepreneurial enthusiasm is highlighted through the “nice ideas that James tried, ran with, but which ultimately didn’t work”, his family said.

This included the Great Cape Airship Company, which intended to run a tourist airship around Cape Town, and Home At Last!, which would commercialise housing made out of platered sandbags.

A provisional date of 2 October has been set for the funeral.