Namibian Defence Force

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Namibian Defence Force (NDF)
Flag NDF Namibia.png
NDF Flag
Founded 21 March 1990 (Namibian Independence)
Service branches Namibian Army Flag.jpgNamibian Army
Namibian Navy Flag.jpgNamibian Navy
Namibian Air Force Flag.jpgNamibian Air Force
Headquarters Windhoek
Commander-in-Chief President Hage Geingob
Defence Minister Penda ya Ndakolo
Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General John Mutwa[1]
Military age 18-25 years
Active personnel c.15,200
Percent of GDP 4.6% (2014 estimate)[2]
Foreign suppliers  Brazil[3]
 South Africa[4]
 United States[3]
Related articles
History Caprivi Conflict
Second Congo War

The Namibian Defence Force was created when South West Africa gained full independence from South Africa in 1990. The constitution of Namibia defines the role of the military as "defending the territory and national interests."

Namibia's military was born from the integration of the formerly belligerent People's Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN), military wing of the South West African People's Organization, and the South West African Territorial Force (SWATF) - a security arm of the former South African administration. The British formulated the force integration plan and began training the NDF, which consists of five battalions and a small headquarters element.[5] The United Nations Transitional Assistance Group (UNTAG)'s Kenyan infantry battalion remained in Namibia for three months after independence to assist in training the NDF and stabilize the north. Martin Shalli and Charles 'Ho Chi Minh' Namoloh were involved in the negotiations that allowed the Kenyan infantry battalion to remain for that period.


The main roles of the Namibian Defence Force are to ensure the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country by guarding against external aggression, both conventional and unconventional; prevent violation of Namibia’s territorial integrity; and provide assistance to civil authorities in guarding and protecting government buildings and key installations as provided in the Defence Act.[6] However Berman and Sams said in 2000 that effectiveness was limited: basic skills are limited and troops suffer from a 'range of diseases.'[7] This may imply that capability is greatly hampered by extensive HIV/AIDS infection amongst soldiers.

Defence spending and percentage of GDP included $90 million in 1997/98, 2.6% of GDP. The 73.1 million figure in 2002 was 2.4% of GDP. These figures are almost certainly CIA World Factbook estimates.


Major General A W Dennis, CB, OBE (rtd), British Army, previously Director of Military Assistance Overseas, made the following comments on the initial phase in Namibia at a conference in Pretoria, South Africa on 6 August 1992:[8]

You will no doubt recall that the Angola accords were signed in Luanda on 22 December 1988. In November 1989 SWAPO won 57% of the votes in the Namibian General Election and immediately requested the help of a British Military Advisory and Training Team following independence on 21 March 1990. The team, initially 55 strong, was duly deployed on 26 March 1990 and the first leaders cadre, for the 1st and 2nd Battalions, was run from 17 April to 2 June. By 1 July, the 1st Battalion, about 1 000 men strong, accompanied by 5 BMATT Advisors, had deployed to the northern border. By November 1990, only four months later, the 5th Battalion had deployed and in early 1991 the 21st Guards Battalion had also been formed, four staff courses had been run, support weapons and logistics training was well advanced (indeed a logistics battalion deployed as early as July 1990) and an operational test exercise had been conducted. In addition the Ministry of Defence, a mixture of civilian and military personnel, was operating as a department of state. No-one would pretend that everything was working perfectly, nevertheless, a great deal had been achieved in the first year following independence. Most people would probably agree that at some 7 500 strong the Army is unnecessarily large, but sensible plans will need to be made for the employment of any surplus soldiers before they are discharged. Integration has not been easy to achieve, at least in part, because of the need to use several interpreters to cope with the wide variety of languages involved. Battalions are made up of approximately 70% ex-PLAN and 30% ex-SWATF. This mixture could have proved explosive but hounded by their BMATT instructors they united in a common task (or perhaps in the face of a common enemy!) and soon realised that they could work well together. At the higher levels, integration has been more patchy, at least in part because of the departure of most white South African and SWATF officers. But the Government's intentions seem clear in that it decided to split the four MOD directorates evenly, appointing two white and two black (ex PLAN) directors. In all this, BMATT Namibia has played a role remarkably similar to that of BMATT Zimbabwe.

In August 1999, a separatist Lozi faction in the Caprivi Strip launched a coup attempt (see Caprivi conflict) which was summarily put down by the Namibian Defence Force.[9] The army has conducted security operations along the northern border with Angola. In the process of these operations, there were allegations in 2001 that the army has tortured people suspected of being UNITA sympathisers.[10] IRIN reported that the Ministry of Defence had admitted that two Namibian soldiers died fighting suspected UNITA rebels in southern Angola in July 2001.[11] The Namibian Defence Force assists in putting out wildfires.[12]

As of 13 October 2010, Sibbinda councillor Felix Mukupi has requested a meeting with the regional army commander in order to request 'the NDF to deploy its troops [on the Namibia/Zambia border area] stretching from Wenela to Kongola' in order to curtail stock thefts by gangs of cattle thieves from Zambia.[13]

On 24 May 2010, Chen Bingde, Chief of the General Staff Department of the People's Liberation Army and member of the Central Military Commission, met Charles Namoloh and Peter Nambundunga, acting commander of the Namibian Defence Forces, in Windhoek.[14] At their meeting, the two sides had in-depth discussions on further strengthening exchanges and cooperation between the two armed forces. Chen Binghe was accompanied by the chief of staff of the Second Artillery Corps and two PLA Military Region chiefs of staff. Chen Binghe also met President Pohamba that day.

In 2012, NDF officials announced the suspension of its recruitment campaign due to a lack of "accommodation facilities" for new personnel for a two-year period.[15] The suspension how ever did not include the recruitment of specialist personnel as the Namibian Navy in 2013 had a recruitment exercise for sailors(officers and men) and marines.[16] In 2014 Recruitment resumed after accommodation issues were resolved.[17]

Organization and structure[edit]

The Chief Of Defence Force is the highest-ranking officer and exercises overall executive command of the force. Service Chiefs are two star General Officers,Air Officers and Flag Officers in command of their respective arms of service. NDF directorates are lead by one star General Officers, Air Officers and Flag Officers.

Namibian Defence Force Structure.jpeg

  • Chief of Defence Force: Lieutenant-General John Mutwa
    • Army Commander: Major-General Tomas Hamunyela
    • Air Force Commander: Air Vice Marshall Martin Pinehas[1]
    • Navy Commander: Rear Admiral Peter Vilho[1]
      • Chief of Staff; Joint Operations: Brig Gen B. Kadhila
      • Chief of Staff; Human Resources: Brig Gen C. Soja
      • Chief of Staff; Defence Intelligence: Brig Gen M. Alueendo
      • Chief of Staff; Defence Medical Health Services: Brig Gen Dr. S.S. Ndeitunga
      • Chief of Staff; Information & Communication Technology: Brig Gen S.N. Haihambo
      • Chief of Staff; Logistics: Brig Gen J.H. Kakoto
      • Chief of Staff; Legal services: Brig Gen V. Kavungo
      • Defence Inspector General: Brig Gen S.S. Shilongo

Chief of Defence Force[edit]

The Chief of Defence Force is always a commissioned three star General/Air/Flag Officer from the officer corps.The first chief of the NDF was Dimo Hamaambo. He was previously the leader of PLAN, and a survivor of the Battle of Cassinga. Hamaambo was the first to be laid to rest at the Heroes' Acre memorial outside Windhoek, a few days after its official opening in 2002. Solomon Huwala replaced Hamaambo as Chief of the NDF on Hamaambo's retirement. After Huwala retired in October 2006, Lieutenant General Martin Shalli headed the NDF.[18]

President Hifikepunye Pohamba suspended Shalli from his post as Chief of Defence Force in 2009 over corruption allegations, dating back to the time when Shalli served as Namibia’s High Commissioner to Zambia.[19] During the time of the suspension, Peter Nambundunga acted as Chief.[20] Shalli was eventually forced to retire in January 2011; the post of Chief of the NDF was given to Epaphras Denga Ndaitwah.[21] Ndaitwah served until 31 December 2013 when the NDF Chief's position was given to Maj Gen John Mutwa.[1]

As of February 2012, it was reported that a Chinese company paid US $499,950 into Shalli's account in Zambia while he was the NDF chief.[22] Poly Technologies was supplying equipment to the NDF at the time.

NDF Sergeant Major[edit]

The current NDF Sergeant Major is Warrant Officer Class 1(WO1) Isak Nankela. He took over from Namibian Navy WO1 D.J. Angolo who retired.

Previous Sergeant Major are:

Defence Health Services[edit]

The Force's Medical services consists of the Grootfontein Military Hospital and the Peter Mweshihange Military Health Center in Windhoek.[23] The Medical Health Services also have received a mobile field Hospital from Germany.[24] The Mobile hospital is rated as a United Nations Level II hospital.

Chief of Defence Force direct command[edit]

Military Police escorting NDF servicemen on parade in downtown Windhoek on 20 March 2015 during Namibia's Independence celebrations

There are some units that report directly to the Chief of Defence Force. These are the:

  • Military School
  • Composite Depot,
  • Military Police Battalion
  • Signal Regiment.[25]

Military School[edit]

The Namibian Military School is the main training and academic unit of the Namibian Defence Force.It offers Officer Cadets and NDF officers an opportunity to get a military oriented academic qualification.Training and teaching in the institution ranges from Basic Military Training to the Master of Arts in Security and Strategic Studies (MA-SSS)offering

Namibia Command and Staff College[edit]

The Namibia Command and Staff College located in Karibib offers the Junior Staff Course (JSC) and the Senior Command and Staff Course (SCSC).[26] It provides staff training to prepare them to staff appointments.[27]

Namibian Defence Force Parachute Training School[edit]

The force's parachute airborne school is based at the Grootfontein Air Base. Here students from all service branches are training to qualify as Parachute specialists. The school was set up with help by the South African private military parachute training company Chute Systems who are training Namibia's airborne forces and associated staff e.g. parachute riggers.[28]

Namibian Special Forces[edit]

The Namibian military's unconventional warfare specialists are part of this command. Specialist training, tough training courses and some of the best soldiers are found in the Namibian Special Forces.

Namibian Defence Force ranks[edit]

NDF ranks are based on the Commonwealth rank structure. There is no approved four star General rank in the NDF. The Chief of Defence Force is a singular appointment comes with an elevation to the rank of Lieutenant General for an Army officer, Air Marshal for an Air Force officer and Vice Admiral for a Navy officer. Arms of Services Commanders i.e. Army, Air Force and Navy Commanders have a rank of Major General, Air Vice Marshal and Rear Admiral. The rank of Brigadier has also been transformed into Brigadier General . Directorate Heads are always Brigadiers Generals i.e.Chief of Staff: Defence Intelligence.

Army Air Force Navy
General Officers Air Officers Flag Officers
Lieutenant General Air Marshal Vice Admiral
Major General Air Vice Marshal Rear Admiral
Brigadier General Air Commodore Rear Admiral (Junior Grade)
Senior Officers Senior Officers Senior Officers
Colonel Group Captain Captain(Navy)
Lieutenant Colonel Wing Commander Commander
Major Squadron Leader Lieutenant Commander
Junior Officers Junior Officers Junior Officers
Captain Flight Lieutenant Lieutenant (Navy)
Lieutenant Flying Officer Lieutenant (Junior Grade)
2nd Lieutenant Pilot Officer Ensign
Warrant Officers Warrant Officers Warrant Officers
Warrant Officer 1 Warrant Officer 1 Warrant Officer 1
Warrant Officer 2 Warrant Officer 2 Warrant Officer 2
Senior NCO's Senior NCO's Senior NCO's
Staff Sergeant Flight Sergeant Chief Petty Officer
Sergeant Sergeant Petty Officer
Junior NCO's Junior NCO's Junior NCO's
Corporal Aircraftman Leading Seaman
Lance Corporal Leading Aircraftman Able Seaman
Enlisted Enlisted Enlisted
Private Private Seaman

Warrant Officer Appointments[29]

Army Air Force Navy
Sergeant Major of the Namibian Defence Force Sergeant Major of the Namibian Defence Force Sergeant Major of the Namibian Defence Force
Sergeant Major of the Army Sergeant Major of the Air Force Master-at-Arms of the Navy
Formation Sergeant Major Formation Sergeant Major Command Master-at-Arms
Regimental Sergeant Major Regimental Sergeant Major Master-at-Arms


Main article: Namibian Army

The landward arm of service for the Defence force is the Namibian Army it is also the largest of the NDF's arms of services.

Air Force[edit]

Main article: Namibian Air Force

The Namibian Air Force is small, but was bolstered with deliveries of some fighter jets in 2006 and 2008.


Main article: Namibian Navy

Development of the Namibian Navy has been slow, and the force was only formally established in 2004, 14 years after independence. Today, it numbers over 900 personnel and deploys a small number of lightly armed patrol vessels. Extensive Brazilian aid assisted in its development.

Joint Headquarters[edit]

The Joint Headquarters is an Arm of Service level institution in the Defence Force and is created by the Minister of Defence in terms of section 13 of the Defence Act.[30]


  1. ^ a b c d Muraranganda, Elvis (3 January 2014). "‘Top Three’ absent at Mutwa’s NDF inauguration". Namibian Sun. p. 1. 
  2. ^ Insight 2015, p.33
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Trade Registers". 
  4. ^ a b "Scramble for the Congo - Anatomy of an Ugly War" (PDF). ICG Africa. 20 December 2000. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  5. ^ Retrieved June 2009
  6. ^ Namibian Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Defence - Introduction. Retrieved September 2009
  7. ^ Berman, Eric G.; Sams, Katie E., Peacekeeping In Africa: Capabilities And Culpabilities - Geneva, Switzerland : United Nations Publications, 2000, p.415-457
  8. ^ Alasdair Dennis, "The Integration of Guerrilla Armies into Conventional Forces: Lessons Learnt from BMATT in Africa," South African Defence Review 5 (1992). Retrieved June 2012. Paper presented at a conference on Changing Dynamics: Military-Strategic Issues for a Future South Africa, hosted by the Institute for Defence Politics in conjunction with the Hanns Seidel Foundation, CSIR conference centre, Pretoria, 6 August 1992.
  9. ^ Source Lonely Planet
  10. ^ Cape Argus/, Namibian army faces abduction, torture claims, 2001
  11. ^ "IRIN SA Weekly Roundup Covering the Period 4–10 August 2001". 
  12. ^ Wildfires cause destruction in Okakarara
  13. ^ New Era, Cattle bandits besiege region - by Chrispin Inambao, 13 October 2010
  14. ^ "China Military Online English Edition". 
  15. ^ Carin Pretorius - Developed CEIT Development CC. "NDF halts recruitment of new soldiers". The Namibian. 
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Shalli New NDF Chief", New Era, 23 October 2006.
  19. ^, 21 October 2010
  20. ^ "President Pohamba fires Lieutenant-General Martin Shalli as Chief of NDF". Namibian Broadcasting Corporation. 20 January 2011. 
  21. ^ Ndjebela, Toivo (25 January 2011). "NDF hails new chief". New Era. Archived from the original on 11 January 2013. 
  22. ^ "Ex-Namibian army commander keeping corruption money in Standard Chartered Zambia". Zambian Watchdog. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ "Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany Windhoek - Handing over of the Mobile Field Hospital to the Namibian Defence Force (NDF)". 
  25. ^ Shilumbu, P (April 2010). "Deputy Minister Calls for Support and Cooperation". NDF Journal' 36: 8. 
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^

Further reading[edit]

  • Stephen F. Burgess, 'Fashioning Integrated Security Forces after Conflict', African Security, 1: 2, 69 — 91 (2008)
  • Greg Mills, BMATT and Military Integration in South Africa, South African Defence Review, Issue 2, 1992 Covers reformation of Namibian Defence Force and British involvement
  • Case studies in war-to-peace transition: the demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants in Ethiopia, Namibia, and Uganda
  • Thomas Jan Lambert, Criminal Justice in the Namibian Defence Force, LAP Lambert Academic Publishing, 2010
  • Peter Batchelor, Kees Kingma, Guy Lamb, Demilitarisation and Peace-building in Southern Africa: The role of the military in state formation and nation-building, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2004
  • Donna Pankhurst, “Namibia,” in Peacekeeping in Africa, eds. Oliver Furley and Roy May (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 1998)

External links[edit]