Special Task Force
Photo Gallery 1
Photo Gallery 2
Historical Summary of Notable
Operations - Three Parts
ASSISTANCE: CORRECTIONAL SERVICES: ST ALBANS: PORT
ELIZABETH: 1997-02-10 TO 1997-02-12: SPECIAL TASK
ASSISTANCE: NATIONAL INVESTIGATION TASK UNIT, NATAL
SOUTH: SHOBASHOBANE MASSACRE AT IZINGOLWENI: 2 FEBRUARY
1996 TO 3 JUNE 1996: SPECIAL TASK FORCE
The necessity for the South African Police Service to
establish a unit capable of handling high risk operations
was identified as early as 1971.
The Special Task Force owes its origin to the Fox
Street seige, which occurred on 28 April 1974. As
a result of this incident, it was decided to establish
a unit that would specialize in the handling of hostage
and similar situations.
It was envisaged that the unit would be an elite force
consisting of some 200 officers and non-commissioned
officers. Due to the South African Police Service's
commitments in the former Rhodesia, it was, however,
not possible to establish the unit until 1 February
Selection courses have, since the unit's inception,
been the sole source of operational manpower. To date
the selection courses have been held, with a total
number of roughly 1,656 applicants, of which 362 have
completed it successfully. At present, applicants
must be permanent members of the South African Police
Service, at least 21 years of age, have served at
least two years in the police service and be
physically and mentally stable to undergo rigorous
training. Such an applicant must also be mature, have
sound judgement and display definite leadership qualities.
Training is conducted approximately 230km from Pretoria
at the Task Force training centre. On average, only
25% of the applicants pass selection.
As members of this unit are exposed to great risks
as a result of its prescribed activities and duties,
it was decided that it would consist of volunteers
only. Members wishing to join this unit must meet
certain requirements, pass an extremely strict screening
test and undergo specialized training.
During 1993, Efficiency Services approved the restructuring
of the unit, and based on operational needs, two additional
components based in Durban and Cape Town were established.
Members of the unit have visited foreign units of
a similar nature on several occasions, to ensure that
the structure and procedures of the unit is in line
with international trends, and to keep abreast of
changes in training and other specialized fields.
"The Special Task Force of the South African Police
Service provides a specialized and impartial service
to the community, by handling high risk operations that
fall beyond the scope of classic policing in a professional
and responsible manner.
The mission, which underwrites the fundamental constitutional
framework, is in line with the mission of the South
African Police Service and embodies the policing philosophy
and policy of the Minister for Safety and Security.
The primary aim of the unit is as per Section 218(1)
(m), of the Constitution, namely the handling of :
"... high risk operations which require specialized
The scope of the aim as determined in the constitutional
requirements for the unit, necessitates the unit to
be capable of fulfilling various functions.
The handling of high risk situations which cannot
be dealt with efficiently by ordinary members of the
South African Police Service.
The handling of hostage situations on land, sea and
Land encompass busses, trains and buildings such as
national keypoints and embassies.
Sea encompass oil platforms , ships in harbors and
own territorial waters.
Air encompass all civilian local and international
The handling of urban and rural terror.
The provision of assistance to other divisions of
the SAPS, which require the specialized skills, techniques
and equipment of the unit, such as Murder and Robbery,
Motor Vehicle Theft, SANAB, etc.
The provision of assistance to units responsible for
the protection of high profile VIP's, as well as the
periodic unassisted protection of high profile VIP's
where the skills required, fall beyond the capabilities
of available VIP units, such as the provision of snipers
for counter-sniper measures.
The provision of a specialized rescue service, and
assistance during natural disasters that require high
proficiency in mountaineering, emergency diving and
other rescue operations.
The rendering of a specialized operational, tactical
and continuation training to all members of the Special
Task Force to enable the unit to perform the primary
and secondary functions of the unit.
The rendering of a specialized policing service to
neighboring countries' police, in accordance with
agreements reached between the South African government
and the countries involved.