Looking Back on the Past, Part 24

Inspiring Those Who Aspire To Be

History of The Wanderers Club


Welcome Back to the World of International Sport!

  • South Africa plays its first rugby test since the abolishment of apartheid.
  • White South Africans vote in favour of political reforms which will end the apartheid policy and create a power-sharing multi-racial government.
  • Violence breaks out between the African National Congress and the Inkatha Freedom Party in Boipatong, leaving 46 dead.
  • South Africa and Russia establish full diplomatic ties.

The Wanderers Club is now 104 years old and well on its way to bearing all the marks and bruises exposed by the relentless flow of events, good and evil in the tide of human affairs.  While the world outside was in turmoil, people sat at home, albeit depressed by the news, but still enjoying life all the same.  While basking in this enjoyment, history was being made with the incredible and violent collapse of Soviet Russia which only a few months earlier had been one of the world’s two superpowers, and for decades a formidable threat to Western nations.

Back in South Africa however the country was in a state of transition to the “new South Africa” and the changes, although tremendously significant, also appeared to be somewhat remote to those folk leading tranquil lives who had to rely solely on newspapers or television for their information and guidance.  People were fearful of a future of political chaos, anarchy, rampant crime and mindless violence – a paradise for those despicable characters in our population ranging from brutal vagrants to sophisticated crooks, of whom there were a vast number, and far too many for the police force to cope with.

It was a frightening scenario for the future of South Africa but people lived in hope that more consideration would be given to all racial groups together with a more effective spread of opportunities and living standards.

The Wanderers Club was not immune to the crime and violence which had invaded the country and was equally liable to suffer the familiar visitations of criminals like everyone else.  Therefore, following suit of every neighbourhood in the city, its premises were surrounded by high walls topped by razor wire and security was stepped up to an excessive degree.  But whatever measures were taken the clubhouse and grounds were never completely safe.

In spite of all these disadvantages clubs like Wanderers were still relevant in the community as places where friendships were kindled on the playing fields and fellowship was still to be found in the clubhouse.  Happily, Wanderers was still able to deliver the goods when it came to catering and the social needs of its members, as was apparent from the fully booked functions recently held over the festive season.

For the first few months of the year the clubhouse remained fairly quiet and uneventful but there was still a lot of activity going on sportswise around the Club, competitively and socially.  This still necessitated a great deal of time and effort on the part of the many members who served on the many committees and sub-committees, whilst also bearing in mind the management and admin staff to keep up the momentum.   There was a great deal of apathy displayed at this time by certain committee members regarding the affairs of the Club, especially if they were not active players and were not affected by decisions made.  This in turn placed a heavier burden on the fewer energetic and diligent committee members and as a result this left numerous duties and obligations unattended to.

Even if this had been a time for worry, it had also been a time for rejoicing in the continued upsurge of South African sport in the international sphere, where all gates had once again been reopened.  Talks of tours and test matches were commonplace and even the top rugby players could look forward to representative games which would leave them little time for domestic or provincial matches.  The expanding boom in South African sport must surely re-awaken national consciousness and patriotic pride in the minds of sports followers while also inspiring the imagination of enthusiasts.

1992 saw the first effects of El Nino which, according to meteorologists, changes in sea temperature bring about periodic variations in climatic conditions and South Africa was not immune.  The effect on the country was devastating and farmers faced ruin and food prices soared.   There was much talk about it being the worst drought in living memory but only a few years earlier there were also the worst floods in living memory, so the truth of the matter was that the overall pattern of drought and floods was in fact quite normal for Southern Africa.

El Nino wreaks havoc in Southern Africa

At the Wanderers Club this was of course wonderful swimming weather as more often than not it was far too hot for any other sporting activity.

The 1992 AGM was once again attended by the customary small band of enthusiasts who turned out year after year in barely sufficient numbers to warrant a quorum.  The meeting lasted less than one hour and the main topic on the agenda was the building of a health gym at a cost to the Club of around R2m.  Before a decision could be made the Club was approached by Stan Schmidt Sports Centre with a proposition offering Wanderers members a special discounted deal to use their facilities which were located in close proximity to the Club.  The Club accepted this offer but unfortunately after sending out details of the scheme to members together with application forms only thirty-three replies were received.

The annual report of the committee for the financial year ended February 1992 had taken a familiar line of a club struggling under the strain of prolonged economic depression hanging over the country, the relentless battle against inflation and the consequent decline in membership.

It was hardly the happiest of situations but in the circumstances one that afforded a good deal of satisfaction and hope for eventual survival in the new South Africa.

Membership figures stood at 10 863 which made Wanderers a club to be proud of and well worth supporting.  To keep things this way a “think tank” was formed consisting of certain committee members and interested persons to discuss ideas on improvements, adaptations and survival measures in turbulent times.  One example was the relaxing of the somewhat stiff dress regulations of the Club which many members considered out of date and a discouragement to those who were reluctant to dress in formal attire every time they wanted to use the clubhouse facilities.  In this regard it was decided that casual clothing would be permitted, on the condition that it was discreetly worn, stylish, neat and attractive and in keeping with the degree of elegance expected of a Wanderers member.

It was felt that the Club needed to change to modern trends if it wanted to attract new members, while at the same time to not lose sight of the necessity to maintain the Club’s standards and reputation as a place where human dignity and decency, civilized behaviour and culture were the hallmarks of social togetherness.

One of the most vivid examples of the social upheaval prevailing at the time was to be seen in the vast metropolis of Johannesburg where the city centre – a concrete jungle of soaring glass and granite and intricate roadway systems – had become the showcase of population explosiveness, seemingly uncontrollable and ungovernable urbanisation, gross pollution, crime and violence, and seething human wretchedness, proclaiming, in one of its less inspiring aspects, the city’s much predicted African Third World destiny.

Johannesburg City Centre

Can anyone imagine, with any pleasure, what it would have been like if The Wanderers Club had won its case 46 years ago and had been left in occupation of that city centre site next to the railway station and in close proximity to the crime-infested environment which it has now become?

Hold that thought …………


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Treat that special lady in your life to a High Tea at the Wanderers Club on Sunday 13th May 2018