About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

South African Police (SAP)

The South African Police was formed in 1913. During the apartheid years it was portrayed as an independent law-keeping body, but it was certainly used as a tool of the NP government. Given the political circumstances in South Africa at the time it played a central role in the maintenance of white supremacy, giving rise to frequent criticism that South Africa was a 'police state'. Its duties included the maintenance of law and order, protection of life and property and the prevention and investigation of crime. By 1972 the force comprised 32 000, half of whom were black people. After the Soweto uprising its allocation from the national budget was increased and SAP numbers were boosted in an effort to control the increasing level of violence. In 1979, the secret National Security Management System (NSMS), (see under SSC*) was established. This was a network of regional and local bodies that coordinated the actions of the SADF,* the police (SAP)* and civil defence units. The SAP was given responsibility for counter-insurgency in South Africa and Swaziland, and the SADF for incursions into the rest of southern Africa. By the 1980s the SADF and citizen reserve force were frequently called into action together with the SAP; coordination of these combined efforts was handled by an organizing body, the State Security Council.*

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.