A Bophuthatswana (Bop) National Guard, some 125 men strong, was trained by the SADF in time for independence in 1977 and handed over to Bop., together with some equipment when that country became independent on 6 December 1977. Initially the National Guard performed ceremonial duties and resided directly within the office of the President (this arrangement was also for budgetary purposes). A seconded SADF officer, Brig. Riekert, served as military advisor to President Lukas M. Mangope. In time an embryonic department of defence was developed, eventually resulting in the establishment of the Bophuthatswana Defence Force (BDF) on 30 November 1979 with Brig. Riekert as Minister of Defence and (then) lt. col. Jack Turner as chief of the BDF.
The BDF grew steadily in the years that followed, with the training wing of One Infantry Battalion eventually becoming the Military School and the Light Workshop Troop developing into the Technical Services Unit. From the time of its establishment the BDF has attempted to establish blanket coverage over the Bop. territory in the absence of a commando system like that of South Africa's defence force.
According to members of the BDF the establishment of the Bophuthatswana National Security Unit (BNSU), as an addendum to the BDF in 1986, contributed to the aborted coup attempt on 2 February 1988. The BNSU's primary responsibility was the provision of security of buildings, etc. Although not a military unit, it fell under the administrative control of the BDF. One particular subject of contention was the low entry requirements for the BNSU compared to those of the BDF, resulting in considerable dissatisfaction. After the coup was thwarted through the intervention of the SADF, Brig. Riekert resigned as Minister of Defence and President Mangope personally took over the defence portfolio. The BNSU was disbanded and a small number of former BNSU members were allowed to join the BDF. For practical reasons a Defence Committee under the chairmanship of Minister Rowan Cronje was established to assist the Chief of the BDF in dealing with welfare and social issues, since these were considered to be the most important sources of the dissatisfaction which had contributed to the coup attempt. Minister Cronje subsequently took over the defence portfolio in 1991. Although the Defence Committee still exists, it now plays a lesser role in the management of the BDF.