Athol Williams

South African writer Athol Williams, fearing for his life, has fled into exile.

Athol Williams is a South African poet and social philosopher. His poetry includes Heap of Stones (2009), Talking to a Tree: Poems of a Fragile World (2011), Bumper Cars (2015), Invitation (2017), Fragile (2020), and Whistleblowing (2021). His nonfiction titles include Pushing Boulders: Oppressed to Inspired (2016), The Book of Eden: a spiritual philosophical revelation for a hopeful future (2019). His children’s books are The Oaky Series (illustrated by Taryn Lock) which include Oaky and the Sun (2014), Oaky the Happy Tree (2015), Oaky the Brave Acorn (2017), What is Happening to Oaky? (2017), Oaky Runs a Race (2018), Oaky and Themba (2019), Oaky and the Virus (2020), and Oaky in the Playground (2021). He has also written A Girl Called H (2019).

Some of his awards for his writing have been the South African Independent Publishers Award , Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award, and the South African Literary Award for Poetry (Runner-up, 2016). He is also a member of Pen South Africa, English PEN and Pen International.

The Zondo Commission – named after the judge chairing the inquiry – was set up to investigate allegations of corruption and fraud in the public sector including in government institutions in South Africa in 2018. Williams was a witness at the commission and named 39 people and companies involved in the scandal.

On November 1, he left his home to flee in exile to an unknown destination fearing the people whom he exposed would cause him harm. In the statement on his website dated November 7 he says;

“On Monday 1 November 2021 I hugged every member of my immediate family, us all in tears, as I said goodbye to board a flight. I was not going on vacation or taking a business trip, I was leaving South Africa for my safety. Concern for my safety had been growing since I blew the whistle on companies and individuals involved in state capture and testified before the Zondo Commission. Rather than diminish after I testified, these concerns increased while the prospect of prosecutions grew. After Babita Deokaran was assassinated, concerns spiked, because it showed that authorities were choosing not to proactively protect whistleblowers.”

He follows in a long line of writers from the continent who have been persecuted and have had to flee to safer countries.