National Intervention Unit

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South African Police Service National Intervention Unit
South African Police Service Flag
Agency overview
Formed 2000
Legal personality Governmental: Government agency
Jurisdictional structure
General nature
Operational structure

The South African Police Service National Intervention Unit (NIU) is part of the special operations element of the South African Police Service (SAPS).

The National Intervention Unit is one of the SAPS' elite units. It was established during 2000 to address high-risk operations. The NIU provides operational support for the South African Police Service Special Task Force with counter terrorism and insurgency and hostage rescue.


National Intervention Unit can trace its origins to the Reaction Units which were established in the Riot Units in 1979. In 2000 the Division: Operational Response Services decided to standardize Training and Techniques for these units and formed the National High Risk Policing Capability and four Units were established, strategically placed at Pretoria, Durban, Umtata and Cape Town.

These units participate in intelligence-driven operations to combat crime in the service areas of police stations and are responsible for stabilizing tense crime situations when normal policing is insufficient, such as by intervening at incidents of public violence when Public Order Policing (POP) Units can no longer handle the situation.

Their work also includes the combating of serious and violent crime incidents such as cash-in-transit heists, ATM bombings, armed robberies and Urban Terrorism.[1]

Recruitment and training[edit]

Prospective members have to be at least 21 years old and must have served at least two years in the South African Police Service. Members applying to join NIU Units must follow the appropriate career paths starting at the Public Order Policing Unit, and then proceed to the Tactical Response Unit before they can join the National Intervention Unit. Members who wish to grow their careers further may then join the South African Police Service Special Task Force (SAPS STF).[2]

All National Intervention applicants are volunteers and have to comply with stringent physical requirements before being admitted to the basic training and selection course. The volunteer must also show certain personal traits such as maturity, leadership skills, and sound judgment.

The basic training course includes weapons, rural and urban combat training courses. Compulsory advanced courses include special skills such as diving, VIP protection, explosives and medical training.

Although membership of the National Intervention Unit is open to both male and female SAPS members, female operatives undergo a separate selection course.


The National Intervention Unit is actively involved in Anti-Rhino Poaching Operations in South Africa [3] and stabilizing Industrial and Mining unrest operations [4] as well as stabilizing Political Violence.[5]

The National Intervention Unit, as a part of the The operational response services division - along with Public Order Policing units, the Special Task force, the Tactical Response Teams and the air-wing - were a central part of the police strategy that resulted in the Marikana Massacre.[6] Their operational commander at Marikana, Lieutenant Colonel Kaizer Modiba, testified before the Farlam Commission of inquiry into the massacre in which he was shown to have ordered his officers to immediately sweep the nearby hill for more weapons rather than seeing to the injuries of the Miners who had just been shot. This was "criticised because most NIU members had level-three first aid qualifications as part of their NIU training... According to the police service’s official crime scene policy, the first member at the crime scene “with due consideration of the integrity of physical evidence, must assist the injured within the limitation of his or her training as a matter of priority”."[7] When questioned, Modiba could not recall that he had read the police’s crime scene policy.[8][9]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]