Internal Affairs Badge Internal Affairs Badge


The Ministry of Internal Affairs

The Ministry of Internal Affairs became the administrative arm of Government at district level throughout Rhodesia.

The Start of the Protected Village Programme in Rhodesia
Rank Structure and Badges of Rank
Uniforms Through the Century
Honours and Awards
Roll of Honour
Picture Gallery
Internal Affairs as seen by Dudley Wall


Its predecessor the Ministry of Native Affairs; known as the Native Department was established in 1894 by Order in Council, primarily to administer Matabeleland.

The pioneers of Rhodesia realised that there was a great necessity for a system of administration for the fledgling country and to begin with formed a very informal organisation that eventually developed into the Ministry of Internal Affairs. A Chief Native Commissioner was appointed in Bulawayo and under his command were a number of Native Commissioners and Assistant Native Commissioners. In 1894 the Matabele Native Police (MNP) was raised and placed under command of the Chief Native Commissioner of Bulawayo.

During 1895 Native Commissioners were appointed throughout Mashonaland thus providing an arm of government at local level throughout the Country.

The responsibility of the MNP was to act as the eyes and ears of the administration and were also responsible for law enforcement, the recruitment of labour, and tax collection. The MNP were not very popular and after the 1896 rebellion several deserted and joined the opposition. The organisation expanded throughout the country and the members of the Department found themselves posted in remote areas where initiative and fortitude was the order of the day. The organisation was known as the Native Department.

In the 1960's the word Native was exchanged for that of District in the appointment titles (eg Native Commissioner became District Commissioner). Eventually there were fifty four districts throughout Rhodesia and each was led by a District Commissioner (DC) with his Assistant District Commissioner (ADC) as second in charge and a staff of white and black members who were responsible for vast rural areas.

As the bush war developed it was natural that the DC and his staff became very closely involved with the war and duties became para military. The Ministry of Internal Affairs established a paramilitary role in order to look after themselves and became another arm of the Security Forces. Members of the stations underwent military training and took on the responsibility of patrolling, manning the Protected Village system as well as executing an intelligence gathering role.

Security Role

"Security" became one of the prime roles of the district administration in the 1960's when a "ground coverage" intelligence gathering task was first officially established in all districts throughout the Country. Intelligence thus gained was filtered via the BSAP through to central government. It also took on the responsibility for the setting up of Civil Defence Committees within the districts and when these became operational areas; this lead to the co-ordination of "protective works" around isolated European occupied farms and the operation in conjunction with the Police, of the "Agric-Alert" radio security scheme.

In 1962, the Ministry became known as "Internal Affairs."

In 1972 the bush war started in earnest and the districts in the north east of Rhodesia received information of incursions taking place from Mozambique. District Assistants on patrol in the Zambezi valley received information of armed insurgents crossing the Mozambique border and making contact with the local population.

They persuaded the people of the valley to feed and house them and arms caches were established and targets were identified for attack. The insurgents attacked some farms in the Mount Darwin district and Army units were deployed. This was the beginning of a protracted guerrilla war.

In view of the increase of incidents and the intimidation and killing of local tribesmen who resisted the new "ideas" it became necessary for the Ministry to train and arm its members so that they could go about their daily tasks. In this way the Ministry became a para military organisation capable of looking after themselves and also to contribute towards the war effort. As the war became more intense the role of Intaf became more important and members found themselves responsible for many activities over large areas. District Assistants knew their districts well and provided an effective network of informers. The staffs of the Intaf stations became increasingly valuable as an early warning system and were often called on to provide information on the area, terrain and people as well as acting as guides and interpreters for the various units of the armed forces.

This added threat resulted in an influx of additional staff, some as National Servicemen, to assist in and supplement the "administrative" presence in the district in the operation of "protected sub-stations." Others; who became known as "vedettes" were engaged in the control and guarding of "protective" and "collective" villages as these new centres of population were created in an effort to isolate the tribes people from the influence of the terrorist.

Administration, primary development and the preservation of good order via the implementation of government policy throughout the Country were the prime roles of the Ministry. As the Country developed and the population of Rhodesia grew, it became necessary to create and establish new administrative districts. Four of these; Centenary, Mudzi, Mutasa and Rushinga were set up as late as 1973 to improve administration in what had by then become "sensitive areas" in the Country, bringing the total of such districts to fifty four. Officials in the Ministry were required to obtain qualifications in Law, Tribal Law and Customs and one of the main African languages — Shona or Sindebele before promotion to District Officer.

Training Depot Chikurubi.

The Training Depot at Chikurubi was established in 1975 under the command of District Commissioner Alex J. Bundock. The Chief Instructor was a past RSM of the RLI. Instructors were drawn from the RLI and most had much experience of the bush war. Consequently training was of a high standard. Basic training was exactly the same as for all infantry units. The Depot was responsible for the training of regular Cadets of Intaf., District Assistants (both regulars and those who joined up for the duration of the war and were known as District Security Assistants), National Servicemen (called up to serve with Intaf), and Territorials (those who had finished National Service). On being called up for post National Service deployment all men underwent a refresher training period.

Protected Villages and Keeps.

The concept of "Protective Villages" was introduced by General Sir Gerald Templar during the Malaya Campaign with the intention of "isolating" the indigenous Chinese population from the Malaysian insurgents.

In this instance the concept worked reasonably well, largely because the "inhabitants" were actually given a "right" to the plot of land that they were given within the "village." In the tribal areas of Rhodesia residential rights were "communal" and thus the Malayan system could not be followed completely. Additional problems were encountered in relation to the need to tend cattle and other stock holdings that could not be accommodated within the villages; thus rendering the intention of denying the terrorist contact with the local people well nigh impossible.

Studies of the British concept of protected villages in Malaya and of Portuguese "Aldeiamentos" in Mozambique and Angola were conducted. The decision to move the rural population into protected villages for their own safety was then adopted in 1972. This responsibility was given to Intaf.

Taking into consideration the proximity of traditional homes, burial sites and crop planting suitable sites were identified and construction began. The first Protected Villages were constructed in the Mount Darwin district and from there spread to other areas.

Each protected village included a tactically placed Keep. Defined in the Encyclopedia Britannica as the place of last resort in case of siege or attack. It was either a single tower or a larger fortified enclosure. The Keep was the barracks for the members of Intaf who stayed in the village. Keeps varied slightly in shape and size and generally started off with the construction of earth walls with parapets and bunkers for defence purposes. Thereafter accommodation was built and comprised of either two or three prefabricated "A frame" type buildings in which the troops slept. One building was used as an HQ with a radio room and ops room.

Once the security fences (often several kilometers long) had been placed around the village the locals then were moved in and they built their own huts on allocated sites. Protected bunkers were strategically placed on the perimeter so that patrols had places to obtain cover when they came under attack. A curfew was declared in most areas and gates were locked at sundown. Patrols were mounted throughout the village. The gates were unlocked at sun up and villagers then went to their fields to work or to go about their daily business.

Stores sprang up and a new social order developed. Hygiene improved generally and water was laid on for the people. The effect on the insurgents was that they were unable to get support from the people. However one must be realistic and understand that villages were infiltrated from time to time. Villagers threw food over the fences occasionally but this was generally curtailed by effective patrolling.

The villages were generally unpopular and came under regular attack. Many Intaf members were killed or wounded defending the people of the protected villages. In fact the highest number of casualties was sustained by Intaf in comparison with all other units. This was due to the very nature of the tasks carried out.

By 1977 more that eighty members of Intaf had been killed in action. The development in this direction was a natural follow on to the MNP.

Throughout the war years Protected Villages were set up in many areas of the Country, initially in the border areas stretching from Centenary and Darwin in the north and west to Melsetter and Chipinga in the east. As these grew in numbers and terrorist activities intensified it was decided to create an additional force to take over the operation of these villages and thus Guard Force came into being.

District Commissioners and their staff continued to administer the tribal areas throughout the conflict maintaining contact with the African population on the ground and ensuring where possible the continuance of law and order and their administrative duties. This task became more and more difficult as the war developed and the terrorist presence moved further into the Country.

In the writer's own experiences in the Chipinga district, essential services such as cattle dipping and the maintenance of roads and water supplies were maintained. Regular patrols by administrative staff to maintain contact and where possible the support of the local tribesmen continued, as did the gathering of intelligence and providing assistance to other branches of the security forces. District Commissioners were full members of the Joint Operations Centre (JOC) at district level and attended security meetings with members of the other armed services on a daily basis.

A visit to the Roll of Honour will quickly show the sacrifice that so many men of the unit made during the Rhodesian Bush War. The scale of the loss of life will most probably come a quite a shock to many readers.

Mounted Units.

The constant patrolling in the field was mainly done on foot or by bicycle. Vehicle patrols were also conducted and were generally hampered by land mines. The use of horses was a natural follow on to these patrols. The first horse troop was established in 1973 at Mount Darwin which was under the command of District Commissioner Jim Latham. This troop was locally known as "Latham's Light Horse". As more successes were achieved funds were allocated to purchase more horses. Eventually horses were donated by various people including the farmers of South Africa. Intensive training was done and drills were established for deployment in combat situations. The horse troops were expanded and one was also deployed in Inyanga district. The great success of the Intaf horse troops was noted by the army and in 1975 the Grey's Scouts were formed as an army mounted infantry unit.

Administration Reinforcement Units.

As the war became more intensive it was found necessary to establish a more specialised type of unit within Intaf to deal with the restoration of administration in those remote areas that had become dominated by the enemy. A number of Intaf regulars were selected to undergo extra training at Llewellin Barracks in Bulawayo. Once this training was completed they were given the responsibility of raising eight Troops of men to deploy operationally. A selection process was done from within Intaf at Provincial level and extensive specialist counter insurgency training was done. Each Troop was approximately thirty three men strong and was commanded by a District Officer or Senior District Officer. The Troops were deployed at Provincial level and were capable of aggressive actions to restore the administration of the rural areas. They were deployed along side army units and accounted for several of the enemy. Several men from the RAR, one or two Selous Scouts and RDR volunteered and joined the various Troops. The Troops were deployed as follows - A Troop in Mashonaland Central, B Troop in Mashonaland East, C Troop in Mashonaland West, D Troop in Victoria, E Troop in Manicaland, F Troop in the Midlands, G Troop in Matabeleland North and H Troop in Matabeleland South.

Air Wing.

Intaf operated a small air wing which was used to transport personnel as well as to do air reconnaissance. Pilots were recruited from the civilian sector and flew mainly small single and twin engine aircraft. At least one aircraft was shot down by enemy ground fire and another crash landed due to damage from ground fire.

Territorial Echelons.

All territorial or part time members of Intaf were called up to units which were known as echelons. Information indicates that there was an echelon per provence as per the ARU's. The territorial members had their own rank structure and were from senior to junior as follows - Senior Vedette Officer, Vedette Officer, Ensign, Vedette Senior Warrant Officer, Vedette Junior Warrant Officer, Staff Vedette, Vedette Section Leader, Vedette Detachment Leader, Senior Vedette and lastly Vedette. Part time members were responsible for running the Engineers, Signals and Administration sections for operations. They were integrated with the regular members for operational duties as required.

Note: The above information has been achieved by combining the work of Joe Skehel a former District Commissioner and Dudley Wall a member if Intaf now a Senior Officer in the SADF with a keen interest in the history of Intaf.

Internal Affairs Flag

The Intaf Flag

The Start of the Protected Village Programme in Rhodesia    Rank Structure and Badges of Rank    Uniforms Through the Century    Honours and Awards    Roll of Honour    Picture Gallery
Internal Affairs as seen by Dudley Wall        Site Home Page

Our honorary Web Designers
Rhodesia Army Ass
Museum Trust
Air Force
Police Reserve Air Wing
Guard Force
Notice Board
Honours and Awards
Missing GSMs
Reunions all Associations
Suggested Reading