South Africa, Intelligence and Security

South Africa, Intelligence and Security

After decades of segregation under the system of apartheid, South Africa in 1994 became a multiracial democracy. In place of the old regime, which included the dreaded Bureau of State Security—BOSS, a agency portrayed memorably by British author Graham Greene in The Human Factor (1978)—the new South Africa had its own intelligence and security organizations. Included among these are the National Defense Force Intelligence Division, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), the South African Police Service (SAPS), the South African Secret Service (SASS), and the National Intelligence Coordinating Committee (NICOC), which oversees these agencies.

The South African National Defense Force (SANDF) consists of four military organizations—army, navy, air force, and medical service—as well as support services. It was formed from the integration of the old South African Defense Force with the armies of the three former racial homelands (Transkei, Bophuthatswana, and Venda), as well as those of political parties, including the African National Congress (ANC), Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), Umkhonto we Siswe, and the Azanian People's Liberation Army. Similarly, NIA was formed from a combination of the old National Intelligence Service with the intelligence services of ANC, PAC, and the three former homeland intelligence services, and the ANC and PAC. Likewise SAPS is an amalgam of the old South African Police and 10 former homeland agencies.

The SANDF Intelligence Division collects and evaluates military intelligence, and supplies this as needed to national leadership. NIA is charged with collecting domestic intelligence concerning persons or groups who may potentially threaten the security of the republic or its people. Among the special units of SAPS are the Crime Combatting and Investigation Division; the National Investigative Service, whose roles include counterintelligence work with NIA; the Visible Policing Division, a crime-prevention organization; and the Special Guard Unit, which performs a bodyguard function similar to that of the U.S. Secret Service. SASS conducts foreign intelligence and counterintelligence operations.

NICOC, which reports to the president and cabinet, brings together the Coordinator for Intelligence, the Director-General of NIA, the chief of the National Defense Force Intelligence Division, the head of the National Investigation Service of SAPS, and the Director-General of SASS. It thus serves as a "joint chiefs of staff" for the South African intelligence community.



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Winter, Gordon. Inside BOSS: South Africa's Secret Police. London: Allen Lane, 1981.


Mallet, Victor. "Pretoria Faces German Bugging Protest." Financial Times (November 22, 1999): 10.

"Thabo's Watching: Spying in South Africa." The Economist 362, no. 8266 (March 30, 2002): 41.


South African Department of Defence. < > (March 1, 2003).

South African Intelligence Agencies. Federation of American Scientists. < > (March 1, 2003).

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