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South African Military Intelligence Service (DMI)


Vigilans et Science – Knowledge through vigilance

The Division Military Intelligence (DMI) was established n 1961 as an All Arms Service. This was the first time South Africa became involved in strategic intelligence activities. DMI was responsible for all strategic intelligence activities. Elements of DMI were involved in tactical intelligence and several officers were sent on course to Britain, France, Germany and the USA. In 1964 DMI became an independent division of the SADF and fell under the command of the then Commandant General of the SADF.

DMI became a staff unit under the command of the Chief of the Defence Force in 1965. By 1967, it fell directly under the command of the Chief of the Defence Force.

In September 1968 the Bureau for State Security (BOSS) was formed and it absorbed certain elements of DMI. However, DMI remained as such and continued to conduct counter intelligence activities within the military.

In 1969 DMI saw more reorganisation when BOSS was formed as a completely civilian organisation. In 1972 the results of the Potgieter Commission into the effective co-ordination between state departments resulted in the promulgation of the Act on Security Intelligence and the State Security Council and its consequences were effected. Thus the various mandates were determined for each of the intelligence organisations within the country.

n 1974 the SADF had a re-look at its structure. The President was overall commander in chief. Under him the State Security Council was formed to coordinated all intelligence activities of the country. This council reported to cabinet and had access to all intelligence from the following organisations:

  • Dept of Foreign Affairs.
  • DMI.
  • Dept of National Security.
  • SA Police Security Branch.
  • Other government departments.

DMI was considered the senior military intelligence component and as such was responsible for strategic intelligence. Each of the arms of service had their own intelligence compartment and they were responsible for operational and tactical intelligence.

The South African Defence Force and specifically the army comprised of a permanent force, a part time citizen force and a part time commando (area defence) component. Further division was by way of a conventional component and a counter insurgency component. In these divisions one could find permanent force officers, NCOs and men taking a leading and guiding role in training and operational deployment and being backed up by part time members from both citizen force and commandos. Generally the commando members were only found in the counter insurgency role although there were the odd exceptions.

DMI remained under direct command of the Chief of the Defence Force. It continued to be staffed by personnel from all arms of service and was totally independent of GS2 (the General Staff compartment for Intelligence) as it was a formation as such.

At this time infantry officers were trained as intelligence officers at the School of Infantry at Outshoorn. Infantry School. Infantry officers had the choice of either becoming an infantry platoon commander, an infantry transport officer or an intelligence officer. All three roles thus being conducted by the infantry[6].

On 2 June 1975 DMI was permanently deployed to Fort Klapperkop and utilised the buildings of the Radcliffe Observatory at that site. The SA Military Intelligence College was also established at this site.

A white paper on defence was brought out in 1977 and this emphasised the need for an effective military intelligence organisation. At this time the war in SWA was escalating and there was a distinct need for military intelligence at tactical, operational and strategic levels. DMI officers officially met with members of the USA Defence Intelligence Agency at the beginning of President Reagan's term of office and relations with the USA improved from an exchange of information point of view. Relations with Britain also improved and both the USA and Britain assisted with information and diplomatic communications with Zambia, Angola, Tanzania and Mozambique.

In 1978 BOSS changed its name to the Department of National Security and then underwent another name change to National Intelligence Service (NIS) in 1980. Today it is known as National Intelligence Agency (NIA).

DMI established itself in northern SWA and made close contact with UNITA. Soon DMI was responsible for the training of UNITA soldiers in a variety of tasks ranging from intelligence work to infantry operations. Support conduits were established for the supply of equipment and information so that UNITA could conduct operations.

DMI headquarters were established in central Pretoria and offices were opened in the Western Province, Durban and other major centres in South Africa to facilitate the activities of the formation. DMI fell under direct command of Chief of the SADF and its commander was known as Chief of Defence Staff Intelligence (CSI).


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A captured PLAN insurgent is taken to a chopper for interrogation by Military Intelligence
Some Military Inteligence Units
SA Military Intelligence Links

Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET


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