South-West Africa Territorial Force
|South-West African Territorial Force|
|Branch||South African Defence Force|
|Part of||Department of Defence for South-West Africa|
|Garrison/HQ||Windhoek, South-West Africa|
The South-West Africa Territorial Force (SWATF) was an auxiliary arm of the South African Defence Force and comprised the armed forces of South-West Africa (now Namibia) from 1977 to 1989. It emerged as a product of South Africa's political control of the territory which was granted to the former as a League of Nations mandate following World War I.
- 1 History and Background
- 2 Activation
- 3 South West African Military Operations Sectors
- 4 SWATF Equipment
- 5 Counter Insurgency
- 6 SWATF Demobilization
- 7 Withdrawal of some units to South Africa
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
- 10 See also
History and Background
From 1966 until 1989, South African security forces waged a long and bitter counterinsurgency conflict against indigenous nationalists in what was then South-West Africa, represented by the Marxist South-West African People's Organisation (SWAPO). As the guerrilla war intensified, however, it became clear that civilian police alone were not enough to cope with SWAPO incursions and escalating unrest. Consequently, military units were deployed for the first time; 60,000 South African combat troops were engaged in South-West Africa by the late 1970s.
As part of a general policy of military and social reform, Pretoria initiated the establishment of local defence and police agencies for its protectorate beginning in 1977.
A start was also made with the regrouping of existing units into four formations:
- a Formation Headquarters Staff,
- a Reaction Force (conventional),
- an Area Force (unconventional) and
- an Air Force.
As regards the latter, the South African Air Force would remain responsible for aerial operations although provision was made for an air commando squadron consisting of private and commercially qualified air crews. Their main function was to assist the South African Air Force in reconnaissance and communication flights and to provide operational officers for the operational service.
SWATF Uniform, Rank Structure, Corps Emblems and Proficiency Badges
The first major step in the establishment of an independent territorial defence force in SWA was the introduction of a new uniform on 6 September 1979 through which SWA units could be distinguished from SADF units.
The rank structure of the SWATF was identical to that of the SADF. The insignia however differed considerably.
|Rank insignia of the South West African Territorial Force|
|Warrant officers and other ranks||Formation warrant officer||Warrant officer class 1||Warrant officer class 2||Staff sergeant||Sergeant||Corporal||Lance corporal||Private|
|Rank insignia of the South West African Territorial Force|
|Officer ranks||Major general||Brigadier||Colonel||Commandant||Major||Captain||Lieutenant||Second lieutenant|
The new South West African Territorial Force was officially created on 1 August 1980, from South-West African citizens already serving with the South African Defence Force. For all practical purposes, SWATF remained firmly integrated into existing SADF command structures. Its primary goal was protection of the territory of SWA from SWAPO incursions.
The SWATF was placed under the control of the Department of Defence for South-West Africa, but was always headed by a SADF general. There was also a joint SWATF/SADF committee established for "planning, liaison, and coordination" efforts. By 1981, SWATF's total strength numbered some 10,100 men, organised into both tribal-based battalions (including separate units for Ovambo, Herero, and Coloured ethnic groups) and multiethnic units partially manned by at least 10,000 white South-West African personnel.
Operationally, the SWATF was further divided into a Permanent Force infantry component, logistic/administrative divisions, a training wing, and a Citizen Force, which included at least three motorised infantry battalions. The 'permanent force' comprised mostly volunteer auxiliaries and national servicemen, who formed eight battalions. A militia system was also developed for local security, including over twenty 'area protection units'.
By 1987, SWATF had an estimated establishment of 22,000 troops, including additional units of engineers, signals personnel, mounted troops, a parachute battalion, and a commando squadron.
- 1980 – 9 November 1983 – Major-general Charles Lloyd
- 9 November 1983 – 23 January 1987 – Major-general Georg Meiring SSA SD SM MMM
- 23 January 1987 – 1989 – Major-general Willie Meyer
- SWATF General Headquarters
- Eight full-time battalions
- 31 Bushman Battalion (became 201 Battalion) HQ at Omega Base
- 32 Battalion at Buffalo.
- 33 Eastern Caprivi Battalion, (became 701 Battalion)
- 34 Kavangoland Battalion, (became "202 Battalion")
- 35 Ovamboland Battalion, 101 Battalion) The Quick reaction force.
- 36 Bushman Battalion, (became "203 Battalion")
- 37 Kaokoland Battalion, ("became 102 Battalion")
- 41 Multi-ethnic Regiment Windhoek ("became 911 Battalion") (As 911 Battalion – it became known as "Swing Force" due to its ability to operate as a conventional unit or as a Counter-insurgency (COIN) unit. Eland armoured cars was included. The unit was never mobilised en masse.
- Reaction Force Brigade, mainly a Citizen and cross corps force, 91 Brigade had a motorised sub-brigade composing two (later three) infantry battalions, an armoured car regiment, and an artillery regiment. The Brigade also included a training battalion and a mobilization center.
- Logistics Brigade
SWATF Special Forces
Although SWATF relied heavily on South Africa's special forces, over time it developed its own capability.
1 SWA Recon Regiment started out as a sub unit under the command of the Commanding General SWATF in 1982, staffed mainly by ex South African operators.
- 1 SWA Specialist Unit, Otavi – containing trackers, dogs, horses and dirtbikes.
By 1984, 1 SWA SPES was based at Omaruku and at Omathoni together with 32 Battalions Recce Wing.
By 1987, 1 SWA Parachute Battalion and 32 Battalion's Recce Wing were amalgamated to become 2 SWA Specialist Unit or 2 SWA SPES and relocated to Luipersvallei, Windhoek.
It must also be noted that most frontline battalions, such 31, 36 and 101 also had their own Recon Wings
101 Battalion Recon Wing emblem
While the SWATF relied heavily on the South African Air Force for combat and heavy logistics transportation, it did have its own Air Wing, which consisted mainly of civilian aircraft.
1 SWA Commando Squadron was established as 112 Air Commando on 24 September 1963 in Windhoek. The unit was staffed by volunteer civilian aircraft. From 1968, control of 112 Commando squadron passed from the SA Army to the SAAF and it was transferred to Light Aircraft Command. In 1970, it was disbanded, but in 1980 it was re-established as part of the SWATF.
SWATF Medical Command
Advanced training, NCOs and Officer development however occurred at the SWA Military School at Okhandja
- SWA Military School
South West African Military Operations Sectors
By 1979, South West Africa was subdivided into Operational Sectors. Three Frontline Sectors, 10, 20 and 70 fell under direct South African Army Command. Four additional Sectors, 30, 40, 50 and 60 covered the rest of South West Africa and was commanded directly by SWATF officers from 1980.
Frontline Sectors were used for the massing of forces in preparation for external operations into Angola, acting as a buffer with the rest of the territory and reaction to immediate threats.
(Kaokoland and Owambo) - HQ Oshakati
Consisted of four modular battalions:
- 51 Battalion at Ruacana,
- 52 Battalion at Oshakati,
- 53 Battalion at Ondangwa
- 54 Battalion at Eenhana.
Modular Battalions main function was internal operations. Sub units were attached according to the requirements of a specific situation, i.e the "modular nature". Their main responsibility was to secure their assigned area in which they conducted cordon and search operations, patrols, checkpoints, mine sweeping and the protection of roads and water systems.
Other units in this Sector included:
- SWATF 101 Battalion at Ondangwa,
- SWATF 102 Battalion at Opuwa,
- 25 Engineering Squadron at Oshakati,
- 5 Maintenance Unit at Ondangwa,
- a training unit at Oshivelo,
- Sector 10 Signals Unit and
- The SADF's 61 Mechanised Battalion at Omuthiya
(Kavango and Western Caprivi) - HQ Rundu
55 Battalion at Nepara.
32 Battalion at Buffalo.
- SWATF 201 Battalion at Omega base,
- SWATF 202 Battalion at Rundu and
- SWATF 203 Battalion at Mangeti.
(Eastern Caprivi) - HQ Mpacha
SWATF 701 Battalion,
, at Mpacha with attached SWATF armoured car and artillery battery.
- SA Navy Marine Company was utilized for river patrols.
Special Service Companies for Quick Reaction
These frontline Sectors also had immediate reaction forces (Special Service Companies) to deal with any attack and were primarily infantry company strength and fully motorised.
- 905 SSC was based at Nepara in Sector 20 and deployed on Buffels.
- 906 SSC was based at Omahoni in Sector 20 and deployed on Buffels. Local Kwanyama troops made up the bulk of the personnel.
- 907 SSC was base at Madimbo in Sector 70 and deployed on Buffels but converted to Cassspirs later.
Apart from the Frontline Sectors, four additional Sectors existed. 26 Area Force Units, similar to the South African commando system, was established for these less vulnerable parts of the territory.
HQ Otjiwarongo (Citadel).
301 Bn at Otjiwarongo.
SWATF Otjiwarongo AME (Area Force Unit - Area Mag Eenheid), Outjo AME, Grootfontein AME, Tsumeb AME, Herreroland AME, Ethosa AME, Otavi AME, Damaraland AME and UIS PL. Its area of responsibility was likewise the Grootfontein, Tsumeb, Otavi, Outjo, Otjiwarongo, Hereroland and Damaraland regions.
Other Units in this Sector:
- SWATF 101 Workshop, Grootfontein
- SWATF Northern Logistics Command Porvost Unit, Grootfontein
SWATF Alte Feste AME, Khomas AME, Hochl AME, Okahandja AME, Omaruru AME, Swakopmund AME, Rehoboth AME, Katatura AME and Khomasdal AME.
Other Units in this Sector:
- Regiment Windhoek
- 1 SWA Provost Unit
SWATF Aranos AME, Auob AME, Bo-Nossob AME, Aminius PL, Gobabis AME, Rietfont AME, Mariental AME and Maltahohe AME.
SWATF Karasburg AME, Keetmanshop AME, Hoop AME, Bethanien AME, Oranjemund AME, Luderitz AME and Namaland AME.
A lot of effort was used to chase after insurgent groups that had crossed over the Angolan border. These Insurgents were on foot, but knew the land and moved fast. There have been stories of the insurgents moving incredible distances with little supplies, whilst being chased and if cornered putting up a good resistance to their followers. Adrenaline injections were found at some of the incident scenes after a fire fight.
These insurgents were normally tracked by using trained trackers, who directed the reaction force. In some instances a stopper group was choppered in to cut off the insurgents before they reached the border.
Under UN resolution 435, the United Nations Transition Assistance Group was mobilised, while SWATF was demobilized, its strength in the last years of operation was at about 22000.
Special arrangements were made for two San units of SWATF, as they originated from local tribal communities. They were thus allocated land near their previous bases.
All citizen force units were demobilized.
The SWATF was completely demobilized on 1 June 1989.
Withdrawal of some units to South Africa
UN Resolution 435 additionally called on South Africa to reduce its forces in Namibia to 12000 before the start of any peace process and finally to 1500 by 1989.
Several thousand San, fearing reprisal or intimidation, left for South Africa with the SADF.
32 Battalion, whose members to a large extent could not claim Namibian citizenship, also withdrew to South Africa completely.
- Duignan, Peter. Politics and Government in African States 1960–1985. pp. 345–377.
- "SWAPO – SWATF/Koevoet". Swapoparty.org. Retrieved 30 April 2013.
- Fryxell, Cole. To Be Born a Nation. pp. 1–357.
- Modern African Wars (3) : South-West Africa (Men-At-Arms Series, 242) by Helmoed-Romer Heitman (Author), Paul Hannon (Illustrator) Osprey Publishing (28 November 1991) ISBN 1-85532-122-X and ISBN 978-1-85532-122-9
- "Military Chronicle of South-West Africa". Rhodesia.nl. Retrieved 30 April 2013.
- Tonchi, Victor; Lindeke, William; Grotpeter, John. Historical Dictionary of Namibia. p. 405.
- FishEagle (21 February 2010). "I Luv SA: The Namibian Border War: an appraisal of the South African strategy (Part 6)". Iluvsa.blogspot.com. Retrieved 30 April 2013.
- "SADF.info". SADF.info. Retrieved 30 April 2013.
- "SWATF Operations". SADF.info. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
- Helmoed-Römer Heitman. Modern African Wars: South-West Africa (1991 ed.). Osprey Publishing. p. 17. ISBN 978-1855321229.
- Overview of the rank insignia used by SWATF[dead link]
- Military operations carried out by SWATF from 1975 up to its disbandment
- The SADF, A Survey. Supplement to the Financial Mail July 10 1987 Introducing the SWATF.