Des Williams

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Director, Head of Arbitration practice

Location: Johannesburg

Tel: +27 11 535 8234

Fax: +27 11 535 8634



Director and Head of Arbitration Des Williams is deeply experienced in commercial litigation and alternative dispute resolution, including international litigation; arbitration; and mediation. He has been involved in many of the largest and most complex litigation and arbitration matters in South Africa and is named in numerous publications for his expertise in litigation and arbitration; construction law; and insurance and reinsurance. Des was the sole South African member of the Court of Arbitration of International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) from 2011 to 2018 and is the former co-chair of the litigation committee of the International Bar Association.

  • Arbitration
  • Construction & Engineering
  • Dispute Resolution
  • Media, Communications & Technology
  • Mining, Environmental & Resources
  • Commercial litigation (domestic & international)
  • Arbitration (domestic & international)
  • Telecommunications, media and technology law
  • Mining law
  • Building and Construction law


  • Represent Aquarius Platinum against Moolman Mining in an arbitration and High Court proceedings arising from the termination of a mining contract for the mining of Aquarius Platinum’s Marikana mine.
  • Represented Bioclones (Pty) Ltd, which is a biotechnology company, in arbitration against Hemispherx Biopharma Incorporated, a US company, relating to disputes arising from a distribution agreement between Bioclones and Hemispherx.
  • Represented the Premier Soccer League in its dispute with the SABC relating to broadcast rights. The SABC's claims against the PSL were dismissed by the arbitrator in January 2008.
  • Successfully represented South African Breweries in two arbitrations, High Court proceedings and an appeal in the Supreme Court of Appeal, in relation to disputes between SA Breweries and Shoprite arising from the sale of the OK Bazaars to Shoprite.
  • BA LLB LLM (University of the Witwatersrand)
  • Higher Diploma in Company Law (University of the Witwatersrand)
  • Higher Diploma in Tax (University of the Witwatersrand)
  • 1979: Director, Werksmans
  • 1994-2005: Head of Litigation & Dispute Resolution department
  • 2005: Chairman, Werksmans
  • 2015: Director, Werksmans


  • Chairman of Werksmans 2005 - 2015
  • Co-chairman of International Bar Association Litigation Committee 2007-2008
  • Member of Council of the International Bar Association Legal Practice Division Council 2009-2011
  • South African member of the Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce 2011-2018
  • Chairman of Council of the International Chamber of Commerce South Africa (ICCSA) 2016-2018
  • Vice-chairman of AFSA International (a division of the Arbitration Foundation of Southern Africa).
  • Ranked as a leading lawyer in: 
    • Dispute Resolution and Construction by Chambers Global: The World's Leading Lawyers for Business (2014 – 2020)
    • Commercial Litigation and in Arbitration by The International Who's Who Legal 
    • Insurance & Reinsurance by The International Who's Who Legal 
  • a leading lawyer in Commercial Arbitration by Expert Guides
  • a leading commercial litigator in Legal Media Group's Guide to the World's Leading Litigation Lawyers
  • one of the world's leading arbitration specialists in The International Who's Who of Arbitration
  • a leading commercial litigator in The International Who's Who of Commercial Litigators
  • a highly regarded individual in Litigation Lawyers Around The World by Who's Who Litigation Guide
  • inclusion in the inaugural edition of Who’s Who Legal: Thought Leaders (2017)
  • Ranked as recommended lawyer by Legal500 for Dispute Resolution for 2018 and 2019.
  • The South African Chapter of Arbitration World (First to Fourth Editions)
  • The South African Chapter of Privilege and Confidentiality: An International Handbook (Second Edition) published by Bloomsbury Professional
  • The South African Chapter of International Commercial Dispute Resolution published by Tottle Publishing (2009)
  • Regular contributor to multi-jurisdictional guides including the following –
    • The International Comparative Legal Guide to International Arbitration published by Global Legal Group.
    • Dispute Resolution in 49 Jurisdictions Worldwide published by Getting the Deal Through.
    • A Multi-Jurisdictional Review – Dispute Resolution in Africa published by Herbert Smith Freehills (First Edition)
    • Interim Measures Issued by Arbitral Tribunals and Domestic Courts – A South African Perspective. Paper delivered at ICCA Congress held in Mauritius in May 2016 and published in ICCA Congress Series No 19