Sixteen years after Paul Harris established the first Rotary Club in Chicago, Rotary came to South Africa when the Rotary Club of Johannesburg was chartered in 1921.
Four years later Rotary became a presence in the mother city when on the 29th April 1925 the Rotary Club of Cape Town was chartered with Sir Carruthers Beattie, Principal of the University of Cape Town as Charter President and 70 members.
In 1934 the Cape Town Rotary Club was honoured by a visit from Paul Harris who came to open the District Conference of the then District 55 in Cape Town. Among the other dignitaries present were the Governor General the Earl of Clarendon, the Prime Minister General JBM Hertzog and General JC Smuts who delivered one of his most famous speeches on “The British Commonwealth of Nations”.
From its inception the Rotary Club of Cape Town made its presence felt in the community. Amongst the many projects undertaken were the establishment of the Community Chest, the South African National Council on Alcoholism (SANCA], the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, the Cape Peninsula School Feeding Scheme and the Cape Flats Distress Association (CAFDA).
In 1937 the Rotary Club of Cape Town embarked on its first extension project, the establishment and chartering of the Rotary Club of Stellenbosch on 13th August 1937, followed closely by Paarl on 27th June 1940 and Worcester on 2nd November 1946.
Since those early days, Rotary -in the Western Cape has expanded enormously, not only in the Cape Peninsula but also the Boland, the Southern Cape, parts of the Karroo and all the way through Namibia to Angola.
Now in Rotary Centennial Year there are 60 Rotary clubs in the District which is presently known as District 9350 and which covers three countries.
In 1955, through the efforts of the Wynberg Rotary Club the idea of a service organisation for young people bore fruit in the formation of the first Rotors Club. This had the direct effect of persuading the Board of Rotary International to introduce the concept of Rotaract for Young Adults and Interact, a Rotary sponsored service organisation for learners at schools.
Many well-known people in the District have been heavily involved in Rotary not only at home but at international levels. Perhaps the best known of them was the late Professor JP Duminy, Principal of the University of Cape Town, and a member of the Rondebosch Rotary Club, who rose to become the only South African Vice-President of Rotary International.
A milestone in Rotary Global History was reached at Rotary’s Council on Legislation in Singapore in January 1989. This Council is Rotary’s parliament and meets to amend or amplify the Constitution of Rotary International. Up to that time membership in Rotary was restricted to men. At Singapore and by an overwhelming majority Rotary agreed to amend its Constitution to open membership to ladies.
This resulted in boom of new membership and in 1989 history was made when Eubeth Beyers was inducted by PDG lan Murray as a member of the Kleinmond Rotary Club and as such the first lady Rotarian in District 9350. Today many lady Rotarians have been massively involved in Rotary projects and of course in our Rotary centennial year we are proud to have a lady as our District Governor.
The many projects carried out by Rotary Clubs in District 9350 in the areas of community, international and vocational service are too many to set out here. However mention must be made of the wonderful literacy programme headed up by PDG Lloyd Whitfield and which has the blessing of the Western Cape Department of Education. This programme known as CLE provides a simple cost- effective methodology at many schools in the Western Cape and through this medium many people have attained full literacy.
Then there is also the annual Last Night at the Proms project by the Wynberg Club which has become famous and at its 19th performance in 2004 raised about R2 000 00 for the Red Cross Children’s Hospital.
Perhaps the best known of projects run by Rotary in District 9350 is the Argus Pick & Pay Cycle Tour which has been masterminded by the Rotary Club of Claremont since its inception. The huge organisation in this project involves many other clubs in the district in the running of one of the great cycle races in the world.
Rotarians in District 9350 have also been involved in world-wide Rotary projects such as the Youth Exchange programmes, Group Study Exchange and of course the vast world-wide ambitious programme for the immunisation of the world’s children and in this way the eradication of polio throughout the world. Because of this dynamic action, the world will be free of this dread crippling disease in Rotary’s Centennial Year.
And now after 100 years of service Rotary, a non-sectarian, non-racist, non-sexist organisation, continues to offer exciting programmes of service through fun and fellowship and the organisation looks forward with excitement and anticipation to the next 100 years.