Police and defence

South African Police Service
Forensic Science Services and Criminal Record Centre
Visible policing
Victims, women and children
Community partnership programmes
Independent Police Investigative Directorate
Peace support
Maritime safety and security
Department of Military Veterans
Armaments Corporation of South Africa
Denel Group of South Africa
Intelligence services






Cover page of Police and Defence chapter in Pocket guide to South AfricaLaw-enforcement services in South Africa fall under the Department of Police, which is responsible for policy determination, direction and overall execution of the department’s mandate in relation to relevant legislation.

The National Police Commissioner answers directly to the Minister of Police. Entities reporting to the Minister of Police are the:

  • Civilian Secretariat for Police
  • Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID)
  • South African Police Service (SAPS)
  • Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority.

South African Police Service

The SAPS derives its powers and functions from section 205 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996 and from the SAPS Act of 1995. This legislation regulates the police service in terms of its core function, which is to prevent, investigate and combat crime.

The National Commissioner heads the SAPS. Deputy national commissioners (under whom the divisions and components of the SAPS fall) and provincial commissioners (under whom the police stations fall) report to the National Commissioner.

The SAPS’s policing objectives, in accordance with the provisions of Section 205 of the Constitution, are to:

  • prevent, combat and investigate crime
  • maintain public order
  • protect and secure the inhabitants of South Africa and their property
  • uphold and enforce the law.

The vision of the SAPS is to create a safe and secure environment for all people in South Africa.

The mission of the SAPS is to:

  • prevent and combat anything that may threaten the safety and security of any community
  • investigate any crimes that threaten the safety and security of any community
  • ensure offenders are brought to justice
  • participate in efforts to address the root causes of crime.

The National Development Plan (NDP) complements the Constitution by emphasising the form of policing that is required in a democratic South Africa.

The NDP denotes “Building Safer Communities” as a key objective and establishes the following as the vision for the country by 2030: “In 2030, people living in South Africa feel safe at home, at school and at work, and they enjoy a community life free of fear. Women walk freely in the streets and children play safely outside. The police service is well-resourced and professional, staffed by highly skilled officers who value their work, serve the community, safeguard lives and property without discrimination, protect the peaceful against violence, and respect the rights to equality and justice.”

The NDP sets five priorities for the achievement of the above vision:

  • Strengthen the criminal justice system
  • Make the police service professional
  • Demilitarise the police
  • Build safety using an integrated approach
  • Build community participation in safety.

By mid-2017, the White Paper on Policing had been developed for the establishment of a single police service.

The improvement of the conditions of service of the members of the SAPS at all levels, in particular those at lower ranks, was also underway following the establishment of a Transformation Task Team to produce,develop and retain a “Proud, Patriotic and Honest Police Personnel”.

The SAPS also aimed to establish street committees to enable civil society to assist in the fight against crime.

An estimated total of 1,5 million crime incidents were experienced by approximately 1,2 million households in 2016/17. Most common crimes were housebreaking/burglary (53%), theft of livestock (11%), home robbery (10%) and theft of motor vehicles.

Forensic Science Services and Criminal Record Centre

The function of the Criminal Record Centre is to identify and confirm any previous convictions of suspects in crimes being investigated by the SAPS.

The Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management arm expanded its frontline service delivery capacity to make it more accessible to local investigating officers and to improve response times in attending to crime scenes.

The forensic science laboratory renders a support service to investigating officers by analysing physical evidence collected from various crime scenes.

Visible policing

Visible policing is regarded as a line-function division of the SAPS, specifically responsible for

  • combating crime through crime operations
  • providing for the activities at police stations
  • combating crimes in the railway environment
  • dealing with crimes affecting the social fabric of society, including crimes against women and children and community-based crime prevention
  • providing a rapid-response service in respect of crimes in progress
  • eradicating the proliferation of illegal firearms available for use in crime and violence
  • ensuring effective compliance and enforcement of liquor control and second-hand goods legislation to address serious crime in South Africa.

The SAPS aims to provide a proactive and responsive policing service to discourage and prevent serious crimes by reducing the number of serious crimes reported, from 1 820 796 in 2014/15 to 1 685 136 in 2018/19, by implementing sector policing at all stations and crime-prevention operations in identified hotspots; and providing enhanced training for detectives and forensic specialists.

Victims, women and children

The main responsibility of the SAPS towards empowering victims is to render a victim-friendly service to all victims of crime. It includes:

  • developing, monitoring and implementing policies, directives and instructions aimed at improving services to victims of crime
  • sensitising and training SAPS members to render a professional, victim-friendly service
  • ensuring that SAPS facilities are victim-friendly.

Community partnership programmes

Community policing forums at police stations serve as the instrument for ensuring that the SAPS engages and cooperates with communities.

Independent Police Investigative Directorate

The function of IPID is to ensure independent oversight of the SAPS and the municipal police services (MPS), conduct independent and impartial investigations of identified criminal offences allegedly committed by members of the SAPS and the MPS, and make appropriate recommendations.

The IPID Act of 2011, which came into effect on 1 April 2012, grants the directorate an extended mandate and changes the focus of the directorate’s work from a complaints-driven organisation to one that prioritises the investigative
The Act further places stringent obligations on the SAPS
and MPS to report matters that must be investigated by the
directorate and ensure the implementation of the disciplinary
recommendations of the directorate.


The primary role of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is to defend South Africa against external military aggression. In this regard deployment in an internal policing capacity is limited to exceptional circumstances and subject to parliamentary approval.

The SANDF’s core mandate is the protection of the country, its territorial integrity and its people.

Peace support

South Africa has been active in the formation of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Brigade as part of the overall African Standby Force whose mandate is to provide the African Union with a rapid reaction capability consisting of five regionally based brigades. The manner in which South Africa’s has undertaken peace-keeping missions in the past is in line with the country’s defence policy.

Maritime safety and security

The substantial increase in acts of piracy along Africa’s coastline threatens the peace, security and stability of the continent. South Africa has an exclusive economic zone of 1 553 000 km2 of which the areas around the Marion and Prince Edward Islands comprise 474 400 km2.

The Atlantic Ocean borders the west coast, the Indian Ocean borders the east and south coast and the southern ocean surrounds the Marion and Prince Edward Islands. South Africa has tabled its claim to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea for the extension of the continental shelf.

This means that South Africa will have to exercise control and enforce state authority over 4 340 000 km2 of maritime territory.

Department of Military Veterans (DMV)

The DMV’s aim is to formulate policies and standards aimed at providing a comprehensive delivery system to military veterans and their dependants in recognition of their role in
the democratisation of South Africa.

The department’s strategic goals over the medium term are to:

  • coordinate and facilitate the provision of socio-economic support services to military veterans
  • manage and coordinate military veterans’ empowerment and stakeholder relations services
  • ensure that the needs of military veterans and their dependants are addressed.

The DMV provides socio-economic services to facilitate employment opportunities for military veterans with the support of line-function departments, private companies and State agencies.

Armaments Corporation of South Africa (Armscor)

Armscor is an acquisition agency for the Department of Defence and other organs of state. Armscor is renowned for its acquisition expertise in providing defence turnkey solutions, which encompasses technology development, product development and support, product upgrading, as well as disposal of equipment. Its research and development focuses on producing cutting-edge technology products.

Denel Group of South Africa

Denel is a state-owned commercially driven company and strategic partner for innovative defence, security and related technology solutions. It groups together several defence and aerospace divisions and associated companies.

Denel provides turn-key solutions of defence equipment to its clients by designing, developing, integrating and supporting artillery, munitions, missiles, aerostructures, aircraft maintenance, unmanned aerial vehicle systems and optical payloads based on high-end technology.

Intelligence services

The State Security Agency’s (SSA) mandate is to provide government with intelligence on domestic, foreign or potential threats to national stability, the constitutional order, and the safety and well-being of its people. This enables government to implement and improve policies to deal with potential threats and to better understand existing threats.

The SSA comprises:

  • the Domestic Branch (formerly the National Intelligence Agency)
  • the Foreign Branch (formerly the South African Secret Service)
  • the Intelligence Academy (formerly the South African National Academy of Intelligence)
  • National Communications, which includes the former National Communications Centre, Office for Interception Centres and Electronic Communications Security (Pty) Ltd.

The SSA focuses on matters of national interest, including terrorism, sabotage, subversion, espionage and organised crime.


Part of the SSA’s objective is to be able to conduct vetting for all government departments in a user-friendly and speedy manner, in line with its counter-intelligence mandate that ensures that
the department creates conditions of security, which enable government and key state entities to do their work.

Source: Pocket Guide to South Africa

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