Athol Williams (born 20 June 1970) is a South African
poet, social philosopher
and public intellectual.
Williams was born in Lansdowne
, Cape Town, South Africa and grew up in Mitchells Plain
, the coloured
township established under apartheid
. Before becoming a professional writer and social philosopher, he worked in business for fifteen years, mainly as a strategy advisor.
It was at the University of the Witwatersrand, in 1991, that he published his first poem, "New South Africa", in the student publication ''Wits Student''. The poem captured the newfound optimism associated with the release from prison of Nelson Mandela
and other anti-apartheid leaders in 1990.
He is the co-founder of Read to Rise,
an NGO that promotes youth literacy by making appropriate books available to children in poor communities. He serves on the board of South African Literary Journal and is the founder of the Cape Flats Book Festival.
Williams is the first person to earn five master's degrees from five global top-ranked universities. He holds the following degrees:
* BSc (Engineering)(Mech), University of the Witwatersrand
[WITS Review, January 2012, University of the Witwatersrand]
* MBA, MIT Sloan School of Management
* MSc (Finance), London Business School
* MPhil (Political Theory), University of Oxford
* MPA, Harvard University
* MSc (Political Theory), London School of Economics and Political Science
Williams has tutored at Oxford University and held the positions of Adjunct Professor at University of the Witwatersrand
and Senior Lecturer at the University of Cape Town, specialising in corporate responsibility and ethical leadership
He is currently a Research Fellow in the Centre for Applied Ethics at the University of Stellenbosch.
From 2009 to 2014, Williams published his poetry under the pseudonym AE Ballakisten. His poetry typically addresses four themes: (i) ''social justice'' as in the poemWhen It RainsProtest in Colombo
anCoat of Arms
(ii) exploration of our ''humanity'' as iYour Song
(iii) ''inspiration'' as we find i39 Postcards
or (iv) the ''surreal'' as in the poeAt Home
The philosophies expressed in his poetry echo the concerns and dreams for human greatness found in the writings of Roberto Mangabeira Unger
, H. G. Wells
and George Bernard Shaw
. His more recent writings paint images of hope, offering poignant insight into the path that humanity can follow to find harmony. "Light on man's condition, man's spirit, the purpose of my writing," he wrote in "A Consecration".
Williams's academic writing focuses on corporate responsibility and business ethics. He is often published in the media on topics of poverty, youth literacy, social justice and corporate malfeasance.
Williams writes regularly on public affairs for publications in South Africa and is a regular radio guest and conference speaker. He has a regular column foThought Leader
and has recently published in Mail & Guardian, The Big Issue and Business Day.
* Heap of Stones
' (2009; Theart Press)
* ''Talking to a Tree: Poems of a Fragile World'' (2011; Theart Press)
* ''Our World, Better Together'' (ed.; 2013; private collection, Harvard University)
* Bumper Cars
' (2015; The Onslaught Press)
* ''Invitation'' (2017; Theart Press)
* ''Fragile'' (2020; Theart Press)
* Pushing Boulders: Oppressed to Inspired
' (2016; Theart Press)
* ''The Book of Eden: a spiritual philosophical revelation for a hopeful future'' (2019; Theart Press)
* Oaky and the Sun
' (2014, illustrated by Taryn Lock; Theart Press)
* Oaky the Happy Tree
' (2015; illustrated by Taryn Lock; Theart Press)
* ''Oaky the Brave Acorn'' (2017; illustrated by Taryn Lock; Theart Press)
* ''What is Happening to Oaky?'' (2017; illustrated by Taryn Lock; Theart Press)
* ''Oaky Runs a Race'' (2018, illustrated by Taryn Lock; Theart Press)
* ''A Girl Called H'' (2019, Theart Press)
* ''Oaky and Themba'' (2019, illustrated by Taryn Lock; Theart Press)
* ''Oaky and the Virus'' (2020, illustrated by Taryn Lock; Theart Press)
* Cultural Affairs Award for Contribution to Literary Arts, Western Cape Provincial Government (2019).
* South African Independent Publishers Award (2019) for The Oaky Series
* South African Independent Publishers Award (2017) for ''Invitation''
* Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award (2016)
* Parallel Universe Poetry Competition Winner, Oxford University (2016).
* Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award (2015)
* South African Literary Award for Poetry (Runner-up, 2016) for ''Bumper Cars''
* "''Talking to a Tree'' brilliantly captures the essence of despair that can force humankind to change. Thought-provoking, devastatingly direct, this anthology is one that will shake the reader out of complacency." – Fiona Ingram
* "thol Williams
is one of those rare souls who perceives the world as it is with all its flaws and does whatever is in his power to change it. He uses well-chosen words and a natural gift for storytelling in this collection to create short narratives about issues which are familiar to us all." – Janet van Eeden
* "it is such a satisfying thing to read the work of someone who is a real poet, able to work an image into a new existence." – Angela Read Lloyd
* "South African poet thol Williams
s latest collection of poems seethes with rage over the violence humanity inflicts upon itself and the natural world. Hope flickers amid the bleakness ... illiams
s book serves as a call to action, urging readers to stop condoning violence." – Camille-Yvette Welsch
Williams is acknowledged for his anti-corruption and ethical business stance. In October 2019, Williams blew the whistle on Bain & Company
stating that they had withheld relevant information from the Nugent Commission investigating irregularities at South African Revenue Service
. In December 2019, several media outlets reported that Bain had attempted to buy Williams's silence. The Nugent Commission found that Bain did not make full disclosure. Bain have denied these allegations.
In March 2021, Williams testified for two days before the State Capture Commission
presenting evidence relating to Bain's alliance with Jacob Zuma
and Tom Moyane
in alleged state capture in South Africa.
Read to Rise
Category:Harvard University alumni
Category:MIT Sloan School of Management alumni
Category:South African children's writers
Category:South African philanthropists
Category:South African philosophers
Category:South African poets
Category:South African male poets
Category:South African political philosophers
Category:University of the Witwatersrand alumni
Category:Writers from Cape Town