The present day functioning of military intelligence and counter-intelligence in the Republic of South Africa has been determined to a large extent by the historical development of military of military intelligence in this country since Union. As a result of South Africa's connections with Britain during the first half of this century, local military intelligence activities were relatively restricted and the intelligence organization was not properly structured. It was only with the establishment of the Republic that South African military intelligence came into its own, subsequently developing into an expanded and highly effective organization.


South Africa originally did not possess an independent intelligence service. The Union of South Africa, from its establishment in 1910 until 1961, was a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations and thus received its intelligence from British Intelligence Service. Even the Defence Act of 1912, in terms of which the Union Defence Force came into being, made no provision for an own intelligence Service.

During the First World War (1914-1918) South Africa was dependent on the British for tactical and battlefield intelligence. Small South African reconnaissance units were in fact established during the war, and those operated in South West Africa as well German East Africa. After the war, however, they were demobilized.

The Union of South Africa was afflicted by political uncertainty, droughts and depression between two world wars and consequently smaller defence budgets were awarded to the Union Defence Force. The Permanent Force was therefore small and little attention was paid to intelligence. In time, however, a limited intelligence staff function was incorporated in the Directorate of Military Training and Operations. In 1937 this directorate became the Directorate Operations and Intelligence, but intelligence played a distinctly subordinate role and remained without a clearly defined policy. It is true that Lt Col B.W. Thwaites was appointed Deputy -director of Military Intelligence, but this was only on a part-time basis.

During the Second World War South Africa, as had been the case during the First World War, remained dependent on the British for intelligence. The South African intelligence section nevertheless remained in existence with an intelligence organization responsible for tactical and battlefield intelligence in North Africa. Prof E.G. Malherbe was at this point head of military intelligence section and after the war was succeeded by Lt Col Powell.

After World War II South Africa's intelligence network remained to all intents and purposes unchanged. Only a handful of officers, under Chief of General Staff, was responsible for the intelligence function locally. They registered the intelligence and intelligence evaluations received from Britain, and for the rest cut out relevant newspaper articles. The country still had no strategic intelligence organization.

From the middle of the nineteen-fifties political developments in Africa necessitated an extension of the intelligence section. The withdrawal of the colonial powers from Africa and the independence of African states were developments of great importance to South Africa, which had already begun to play a leading role on the continent. On the instruction of the serving Minister of Defence, Adv F.C. Erasmus, a sub-section was established within the intelligence section in February 1957, with the responsibility of collecting , interpreting and distributing intelligence of military and strategic value.

The South African military leaders realized that the country would have to provide for its own intelligence requirements to a greater extent. Developments abroad as well as communist-inspired unrest and subversion at home emphasized the necessity of having an own intelligence service. After his appointment in 1960 as Commandant-General, General P.H. Grobbelaar, expanded the South African Defence Force(the name having changed thus in 1957) and established the Directorate Planning and Operations. The intelligence section, which fell under this directorate, was also enlarged on the 2nd February 1961, Col M.J. Uys was appointed as Chief Intelligence Officer of the section.


After South Africa became a Republic outside the British Commonwealth in 1961, its foreign intelligence sources dried up. The SA Defence Force thus had to establish a full-scale military intelligence section to meet its intelligence requirements.

The existing intelligence section was accordingly enlarged by inter alia acquiring the function of military security and counter-intelligence as well as national strategic intelligence. The process of establishing an autonomous intelligence organization was nevertheless fraught with difficulties and problems, the most serious obstacle was the lack of intelligence and trained personnel. The intelligence section nevertheless progressed and on 1 July 1962 reached a milestone when its status was elevated to that of directorate. From this point it was known as the Directorate Military Intelligence (DMI). One of the tasks the new directorate immediately set about was the establishing intelligence procedures and actions. This was to contribute largely to the effective functioning of DMI.

Col P.M. Retief, in the meantime, succeeded Col Uys at the end of 1961 as Chief Intelligence Officer and four years later he in turn was succeeded by Maj Gen F.W.Loots.

To ensure the coordination of intelligence on a national level, DMI from early date cooperated with the various government departments who were each also running an intelligence section. After the establishment of the State Security Committee in 1963, DMI together with the Department of Foreign Affairs and the South African Police, served on this committee. It was renamed the State Security Advisory Council in 1966.


A significant event in the late nineteen-sixties, was the formation of the South African Military Intelligence Corps on the 1 January 1968 from the ranks of the intelligence personnel. The corps was established as a result of the need to group the intelligence personnel together in a communal body. This need in turn had arisen after DMI's functions not only increased in scope, but become more and more specialized. In order to satisfy the personnel requirements, a number of civilians with the required professional knowledge were appointed in addition to the Permanent Force members. While some Permanent Force members were allocated to Military Intelligence on a permanent basis , the remainder were temporarily detached from one of the three Defence Force Services to DMI which resulted in a lack of continuity. The loose composition of the intelligence personnel and the continuous transfer of personnel as a result of the above-mentioned rotation system, caused considerable disruption as well as problems with personnel administration and career planning which in turn had a negative influence on the effective execution of DMI's stipulated tasks. It thus became essential to incorporate the military intelligence personnel in their own corps. Although the Minister of Defence only authorized the establishment of the South African Military Intelligence Corps on 2 February 1968, the authorization was back-dated to 1 January of that year.

All Permanent Force members who were permanently in service with DMI were incorporated in the corps while the posts of all civilian intelligence officials were militarised. The Military Intelligence Corps later became the South African Military Intelligence Service.


DMI in the seventies decade was fast establishing it self as an efficient and professional military intelligence organization. Due to the escalating terrorist war on the Republic's northern border, the gradual disappearance of the so-called buffer states and the growing threat of communist expansion in Southern Africa, ever increasing demands were made on DMI- hence the rapid expansion of the directorate. In 1970 it became Military Intelligence Division (MID) with the function of determining the military threat against the RSA. A year later, on the 29 November 1971, the need for closer liaison between Military Intelligence and Counter-intelligence led to placing of the two sections under a common head, namely the Director-General Military Intelligence with Maj Gen H. de V. du Toit appointed to the post.

The expansion and modernization of the SA Defence Force during the late sixties and early seventies was accompanied by an organizational restructuring in terms of which the four-pronged staff division system was introduced in 1974. MID now became a specialist staff division with the aim of providing the SA Defence Force with military intelligence and counter-intelligence service. With effect from 15 April 1974 DGMI became Chief Staff Intelligence (CSI) directly responsible to Chief of the South African Defence Force. The post of CSI was filled by Maj Gen du Toit. On 1 September of the same year the posts of CSI and Deputy CSI were upgraded from Maj Gen and Brig to Lt Gen and Maj Gen respectively. In June 1978 Lt Gen P.W. van der Westhuizen succeeded Lt Gen du Toit ; Maj Gen I Lemmer having been acting CSI in the interim from September 1977.

Following the expansion of MID's functions and personnel during the first half of the seventies, the need arose to establish a permanent training centre which would satisfy the specific and unique requirements of the Division. This ideal was realized in 1975 when the training section moved to the former Radcliffe Observatory.

It became known as the Intelligence Centre and Col D.J.S Greyling was appointed officer commanding. On 2 November 1983 the Centre was accorded unit status and was designated SA Military Intelligence College.

During the seventies and eighties, MID underwent various organizational changes. Those changes were essential if the Division wanted to be a dynamic organization capable of meeting the demands made on it at all times. Refinements to the organization's structure were accordingly made to enable it to perform its task, namely the timely and accurate determination of any form of threat against the security of the state, as well the protection of the state's secrets, continuously and effectively in a coordinated fashion.


Within twenty - five years (1.7.1987) MID has progressed from a small understaffed sub-section to an efficient and complex organization which operates on various levels with considerable success. MID however, did not develop in isolation, but as part of the SA Defence Force. Sound, pro-active intelligence is widely recognized as the basis of all strategic and tactical planning and thus MID functions in close cooperation with other components of the SA Defence Force. The Division therefore in the last quarter of a century has contributed largely to the success of the SA Defence Force as a whole.

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