Start main page content

Highest honour from an Oxford college for Witsie

- Wits Alumni Relations

Athol Williams awarded an honorary fellowship for his social activism, scholarship and leadership.

Wits alumnus Athol Williams (BSc Eng 1992) has been awarded an honorary fellowship from Hertford College, at the University of Oxford.

It is the highest recognition an Oxford college can bestow.

Williams is a poet, business and ethics scholar, and an anti-corruption advocate. He joined the Saïd Business School in September 2023 as a research associate.Portrait of Athol Williams

In a statement released on 3 July 2024, principal at Hertford College, Tom Fletcher said: “His social activism, scholarship and leadership are a source of great pride to our community, and he will continue to be a source of great inspiration, advice and wisdom to our students.”

Williams has earned degrees from Wits, Harvard, Oxford, the London School of Economics, MIT and London Business School. His disclosures about US-based consultancy Bain & Co constituted a central part of the Zondo Commission’s investigations and have had a global impact. He also published Deep Collusion: Bain and the capture of South Africa (Tafelberg, 2021).

Commenting on the honour he said: “It is an immense honour to be elected an Honorary Fellow at Hertford College, my alma mater. This recognition acknowledges the first part of my personal mission – ‘to strive for excellence; to live with compassion and possibility.’ But this recognition will also serve as a platform and powerful boost in pursuit of the second part of my mission, which is ‘to enable and inspire others to do the same.’ I look forward to continuing my close working relationship with the college as it prepares and empowers the future leaders the world needs.”

In 2021 Williams spoke to WitsReview about the huge personal cost of his testimony which damaged his career and had a negative impact on his health. He fled South Africa in November 2021, believing his life was in danger because of the country’s poor protection of whistleblowers.

In the UK he slowly rebuilt his life “embracing opportunities here to share my philosophy that an ethical society becomes a prosperous society."

Williams has recently contributed to the Ministry of the Future initiative at Hertford College, as a new international body to advocate for the world’s future generations as if their rights were equal to the present population. Composed of a growing network of interdisciplinary scholars, writers and climate-action-oriented managers and policymakers, it seeks to invent a sustainable political economy.