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 poem
When It RainsProtest in Colombo
Coat of Arms
(ii) exploration of our ''humanity'' as i
Your Song
(iii) ''inspiration'' as we find i
39 Postcards
or (iv) the ''surreal'' as in the poe
At 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 fo
Thought 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)

Children's books

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)

Literary awards

* 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 Williamsis 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 Williamss latest collection of poems seethes with rage over the violence humanity inflicts upon itself and the natural world. Hope flickers amid the bleakness ... illiamss 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.https://www.enca.com/news/state-capture-i-received-lot-threats-athol-williams-zuma-moyane-sars-bain


External links

Read to Rise
* {{DEFAULTSORT:Williams, Athol Category:1970 births Category:Living people Category:21st-century philosophers Category:Cape Coloureds Category:Harvard University alumni Category:MIT Sloan School of Management alumni Category:Social philosophers 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 Poets South African