Men Only Clubs – If only the Garrick had followed the example set by Marxist militants in Tanzania

Posted: 5 April, 2024 | Category: Current News Category: Features & Analysis

Black power led to all clubs and societies opening up to black members in Tanzania – but it didn’t happen overnight.


By Trevor Grundy


So, after 193 years the Garrick Club in London might allow women members.

What a time that took.

And what a palaver in the British media for well over a month. Non- stop drivel as the world slides towards chaos and extinction.

The famous club’s 1,500 members should have done their homework and had a good laugh (or cry) both at the same time.

Because now isn’t the first time that an exclusive club for men only has been under fire in the (until recently) British-dominated Commonwealth.

In 1971, a small group of mainly British expatriate journalists and their partners (some of who went on to play leading roles in the media departments of post-independence governments in central, eastern and southern Africa) organised a sit-in at a men’s only drinking den in Dar es Salaam.

In those days, Tanzania was seen as a sort of political Mecca for well- educated and well off ex-public schoolboys with their youthful militant tendencies.

The sit-in was partly organised by a well-known anti-apartheid campaigner, Michael Wolfers, who promised his Oxbridge contemporaries that he’d never eat, drink or be merry in a club that banned women members.

Michael Wolfers at Chatham House in London  (Picture: Trevor Grundy)


All those years ago in Dar es Salaam, there was only one non-white member of the Gymkhana Club, with its golf course, its tennis and squash courts, its reasonably priced OK food and bar well stocked with ice cold Tusker and White Cap beers.

In 1970, Julius Nyerere appointed the well-heeled Marxist, Frene Ginwala, as managing editor of Tanzania’s only English language daily newspaper, The Standard.

Frene knew nothing at all about running a newspaper and at great expense to the Tanzanian taxpayers recruited a whole load of British and South African (ANC-friendly) journalists to do the job for her.

Even to write her editorials.

One of the men on the fringe of the expatriate media at The Standard was the MPLA and FRELIMO activist and ex-The Times African reporter, Michael Wolfers

I remember his face clouding over when I told him that there was a Men’s Only bar at the Gymkhana Club.

I took him there one night and tried to teach him how to play darts but he kept missing the board and was asked to stop.

I didn’t know what he’d do so soon after his visit to the whites only place.


One morning around 11am a collection of socialist/communist expatriates– all of them white – arrived outside the club with banners denouncing white trash.

One read – Go home to Britan where you belong.

Moments later a group of young energetic and rather scary females bust into the Men’s Only bar and demanded drinks and snacks.

Semi-retired or fully retired elderly white men in white shirts and short and sandals were flabbergasted.


I put my head round the door to see what was going on.

So did David Martin, who went on to become a The Observer correspondent in Africa.

Martin told me to take a note because it would make a good story for the following day’s paper. I wrote it that night. But the only non-white Gymkhana Club member was the paper’s chairman, Andy Chande, and he was on the phone to Frene. The story never appeared.


White drinkers were flabbergasted but they kept quiet, probably fearful that they would be accused of racism and taken off somewhere dark and dangerous by members of the ruling party’s Youth Wing who were spotted snooping around the 19th hole.

After an hour or so, the militants got on their bikes and pedalled back to their flats along the Indian Ocean beachfront.

Banner waving and victorious.

But not much changed. I know that a couple of elderly wives of club members sipped a gin and tonic in the Men’s Bar to show the ruling party they were in step with the times.

The Garrick (above in London)  and Gymkhana club in Dar es Salaam had little in common except a desire to remain as exclusive and male-dominated as possible


Michael Wolfers and his close Marxist friends boasted that they had liberated an elitist white enclave in Nyerere’s Tanzania.

Next step? The liberation of the economy from all those white hands  that made cash registers dance and sing and non-resident shareholders smile and spend.

Michael swore that night he’d never set foot in a restaurant or club  that refused membership to women.

And if there were clubs like that in Britain. . .


But, as the song in Casablanca reminds us, time goes by.

Ideals we clung to when we were young and our hearts were like open books fade and die.

We must remember this.


On October 6, 2014 Michael’s close friend from their days at Wadham College, Oxford University, Lord (Melvyn) Bragg turned 75.

On October 15 the English peer invited 16 friends to mark the occasion with him.

That day, the Garrick Club was as lively and as free from women as ever.

During the first course, tragedy struck.

For some reason, Michael (who was generous to himself when it came to good kosher food and champagne) swallowed and sadly choked on something and was rushed to hospital where he died.

Had he lived, fellow media men who were members of the Garrick Club might have been told how a collection of young Marxists liberated an elitist club in a former German colony run by the British after the First World War.

There and then, he might have planted a seed in their booze-cruise brains and given them a good idea.

But I doubt it.

Those there that day were no longer in their late 20s or early 30s.

The visons of the young are one thing. The dreams of the old, another.

But enough of all that.

For it all took place in another country and besides, the wench is dead.


 Trevor Grundy worked for The Standard and Sunday Mail in Dar es Salaam from 1968-1972.