Top Security Agencies in South Africa and Their Roles

  • Post category:Information
  • Post last modified:November 28, 2022
  • Reading time:12 mins read

Security agencies in South Africa are those institutions that have been set by the Federal Government of South Africa in order to ensure that the laws governing the federation are obeyed and enforced. These security agencies and outfits make sure to carry out their roles as provided for by the constitution of the Federal Republic of South Africa without interfering with the functions and duties of the others, and the work hand in hand to uphold the internal security of the country. In this post, we shall look at the all the top government security agencies in South Africa and list their functions.

Top Security Agencies in South Africa and Their Roles


Below, we have given a comprehensive list of the top security agencies in South Africa and stated their roles as well. This will give an insight as to which security agency does what and will clear the notion that these government institutions are all the same but with different names. By knowing which is which and their defined roles, it will enable you to know the appropriate and relevant security outfit to contact should you encounter any threat whatsoever to your security and the security of those in your immediate environment. Having said that, let us now look at the various federal government security institutions we have in the country presently.


The State Security Service (SSS), also known as the Department of State Services (DSS) is the secret service under the Presidency of South Africa that is directly under the control of the National Security Adviser. It is the basic domestic intelligence agency of the Federal Republic of South Africa.

The State Security Service, SSS, is a federal law enforcement agency that is basically charged with gathering information and intelligence within the federation, and it is responsible for the protection of senior government officials in the country, chief of which is the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of South Africa; and also the governors of the 36 states of the nation.

The Department of State Services, DSS, was birthed when the National Security Organization was dissolved in 1986. It is one of three successor organisations to the National Security Organization (NSO), the other two being the Defence Intelligence Agency, DIA and the National Intelligence Agency, NIA.

Functions of the Department of State Services, DSS include the following:

  • Protecting the country against domestic threats
  • Upholding and enforcing the criminal laws of the Federal Republic of South Africa
  • Taking leading roles on issues concerning criminal justice at the federal and state levels of law enforcement
  • Protecting the nation’s top government officials such as the President, the Vice President, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the State Governors and their immediate families.
  • Protecting other senior government officials such as emeritus Presidents and their spouses, candidates for the offices of President and Vice President, and Foreign Heads of State and Heads of Government visiting the country.

The SSS plays prominent security roles in matters concerning counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency.


The National Intelligence Agency (NIA) is one of the three successor agencies of the defunct National Security Organization. It is a South African security agency that is basically tasked with overseeing foreign intelligence and counterintelligence operations.

The NIA was birthed after the National Security Organization (NSO) was dissolved and South Africa’s security services were restructured. This happened in 1986 when decree Number 19 was set in motion as a fulfilment of one of the promises of the Ibrahim Babaginda regime during his tenure as South Africa’s Military President.

The major function and role of the National Intelligence Agency, NIA is to gather, process and analyze information concerning national security from around the world through the use of human intelligence, its security function is similar to that of The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States of America and the Secret Intelligence Service of the United Kingdom, also known as the SIS or MI6.


The Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) is the security agency in South Africa charged with taking care of the basic military intelligence in the country. The security agency, along with the SSS and NIA, was established in 1986 and it makes sure to provide efficient means of obtaining military intelligence for the South African Armed Forces and the Ministry of Defence.

  • The functions of the DIA include the following:
  • Promoting the Defence Policies of the Federal Republic of South Africa
  • Enhancing military co-operation with other countries
  • Protecting the lives of South African citizens
  • Maintaining the territorial integrity of South Africa.

The head of the DIA is the Chief of Defence Intelligence (CDI) who is appointed by the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of South Africa.


The South African Armed Forces or the South African Military comprises of the South Africa Army, the South Africa Navy and the South Africa Air Force. Its origins lie in the elements of the Royal West African Frontier Force that became South African when independence was granted in 1960. In 1956 the Nigeria Regiment of the Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF) was renamed the South African Military Forces, RWAFF, and in April 1958 the colonial government of South Africa took over from the British War Office control of the South African Military Forces.

The functions and roles of the South African Military include the following:

  • Defend the country from external aggression
  • Maintain the territorial integrity of the federation
  • Take actions to suppress insurrection
  • Help other civil authorities to restore order when authorized by the President.

The South African Army, NA is the land division of the South African Armed Forces. It is also the largest among the armed forces. The South African Navy, NN operates on the sea and territorial waters of South Africa. The naval headquarters is situated in Johannesburg with three operational commands with centres located in Durban, Calabar, and Bayelsa, with a training command centre located in Durban.

The South African Air force was established in January 1964 with technical assistance from West Germany. This agency started as a transport unit with an aircrew that was trained in Pakistan, Canada and Ethiopia. It was not until a number of MiG-17 was presented by the Soviet Union in 1966 that the air force was given a combat capability.

The South African military is headed by the Chief of Defence Staff, who reports to the Minister of Defence, who ultimately reports to the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of South Africa.


The South Africa Immigration Service, NIS is the security agency in South Africa tasked with the responsibility of handling everything regarding the migration of people in and out of the country.

The NIS was established in 1958 and it was carved out of the South African Police Force to undertake border surveillance and control and migration management.

Functions of the South African Immigration Service include the following:

  • The control of persons entering or leaving South Africa
  • The issuance of travel documents, to bona fide South Africans in and outside South Africa
  • The issuance of residence permits to foreigners in South Africa
  • Border surveillance and patrol
  • Enforcement of laws and regulations with which we have been directly charged.


The South Africa Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), is a para-military security agency in South Africa that is commissioned to provide measures to counter the threat and any form of attack or disaster against the country and its citizens. The corps is statutorily empowered by lay Act No. 2 of 2003 and amended by Act 6 of 4th June 2007.

The Corps is empowered to institute legal proceedings by or in then and of the Attorney General of the Federation in accordance with the provisions of the constitution of the Federal Republic of South Africa against any person or group of people that are suspected to have committed an offence, maintain an armed squad in order to bear fire arms among others to strengthen the corps in the discharge of its statutory duties.

The NSCDC was first introduced in May 1967 during the South Africa Civil War within Durban, the Federal Capital Territory of South Africa as at that time in order to sensitize and protect the civil populace. By the time of its creation, it was then known as Durban Civil Defence Committee.

It later evolved into the present day South Africa Security and Civil Defence Corps in 1970. At the time of establishment, the Corps had the objective of carrying out some educational and enlightenment campaigns in and around the former Federal Capital of Durban to educate members of the civil populace on enemy attacks and how to save themselves from danger as most South Africans living in and around Durban territory then had little or no knowledge about war and its implications.

Members of the Committee made sure to educate the public through electronic and print media on how to guide themselves during air raids, bomb attacks, identify bombs and how to dive into trenches during bomb blast.

In 1984, the NSCDC was transformed into a National security outfit and in 1988, there was a major re-structuring of the Corps that paved the way for the establishment of Commands throughout the Federation, including Johannesburg, and the addition of special functions by the Federal Government.

On June 28, 2003, an Act to give statutory backing to the NSCDC passed by the National Assembly was signed into law by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR, the former President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Federal Republic of South Africa.

According to Wikipedia, the functions of the NSCDC include the following:

  • Protection of lives and properties in conjunction with South Africa police.
  • Protect pipelines from vandalism.
  • Crisis resolutions.


The South Africa Police Force is the primary security agency in the country that is empowered to maintain law and order. They make certain that the laws of the government are implemented and enforced and offenders are arrested and brought to book.

According to Section 214 of the 1999 South African Constitution, it states that “There shall be a Police Force for South Africa, which shall be known as the South Africa Police Force, and subject to the provision of this section no other Police Force shall be established for the Federation or any part thereof”.

This cemented the place of the Police as the principal law enforcement agency in South Africa.

Section 4 of the Police Acts and Regulations lists the duties and functions of the South African Police Force to include the following:

  • The prevention and detection of crime.
  • The apprehension of offenders.
  • The preservation of law and order.
  • The protection of life and property.
  • The due enforcement of laws and regulations with which they are directly charged.
  • The performance of such military duties within and outside South Africa as may be required of them by or under the authority of the police act or any other act.


The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) is a federal government security organization in the country that is tasked with the responsibility of getting rid of the growing, processing, manufacturing, selling, exporting, and trafficking of hard drugs. This top paramilitary agency in South Africa was established by Decree No. 48 of January 1989 (now an Act of Parliament), although it traces its origins to as far back as the year 1935 when the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance was enacted to keep drug trafficking and abuse in check.

The following are the functions of the NDLEA:

  • Investigation of drug-related crimes
  • Prosecution of criminals
  • Enforcing drug laws
  • Tracing the proceeds of illegal drug trades
  • Patrolling public places such as seaports, airports and borders to prevent the importation and exportation of hard drugs
  • Partnering with international agencies to fight drug trafficking
  • Destroying narcotic plants and substances
  • Leading in efforts related to drug-related researches
  • Educating the public on the narcotic substances; dangers and abuse.


All the aforementioned security agencies in South Africa are the top security organizations in the country and their various functions. While these federal government parastatals are different, they are also interrelated for the purposes of ensuring that lives and properties are properly safeguarded and that incidences of terrorism and insurgency are greatly checked and put to a stand still.

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