Rhodesia - Intaf

Callsign - Lighthouse

As the war intensified various DCs stations created their own reaction units.  These units were deployed to continue the day to day tasks of the district administration. 


There was never an intention for Intaf to become involved in offensive operations at the beginning of the bush war in Rhodesia.  However this did change and as a result there was a great divide in thinking by the regular members of Intaf. 

There were two schools of thought.  The one was based on a traditional role where Intaf was the administrator of the government, seeing that laws were adhered to and that tribal disputes were resolved as well as improving the infrastructure and developing the capabilities of the people of the Tribal Trust Lands and African Purchase Areas.  As an aside Intaf was legally tasked with a Ground Coverage intelligence responsibility which was addressed in the BSAP Ground Coverage manual and in legislation.  Intaf was in an ideal position for this side-line role as its staff members (both black and white) lived permanently in the areas they administered and had a close working relationship with the tribal structures and the people who lived there.

Intaf personnel were involved in a wide variety of tasks that took them to remote areas and allowed them to make contact with the local people.  District Assistants (who had powers of arrest) patrolled alongside their counterparts – the Cadet District Officers and District Officers.  Patrols were done on foot, bicycle and by Land Rover.  Tasks included routine visits to Chiefs and Headmen as well as to Kraalheads to discuss and solve any problems that arose as a result of land issues, tribal customs and general crime.  Spirit mediums were also visited and a watchful eye was kept on schools and clinics which looked after the medical needs of the local people.  Intaf was responsible for all licencing activities (from firearms to operating business ventures) and inspections were made at all local business centres to determine if the composition and balance of small businesses were being run legally. 

While this took place the intelligence collection tasks were fulfilled.  Cattle sales and dipping days were also conducted and staff ensured that conservation of the land was a priority.

This was a visible sign of the government maintaining its rightful position amongst the community and became a singularly important target for the terrorists.  The terrorists thought that if they could disrupt these legitimate activities they would be seen by the locals as having power and authority as an alternative to the Smith government.  In effect the terrorists had to get rid of Intaf personnel to be seen to be in control of an area.  Therefore Intaf personnel were considered a vitally important target for them to eliminate in an effort to demonstrate their control over the land and its people (whether the people wanted them to or not.)

Intaf men were ambushed on innumerable occasions.  Land mines were planted in copious quantities and Intaf personnel were killed and wounded by them while travelling around doing their duty.  The decision was made to bring the local people into protected villages.  Protected Villages were meticulously planned and laid out to try and cause as little disruption to daily life as possible.  It allowed Intaf to do their tasks and at the same time keep the people out of the reaches of the terrorists who needed their support (provision of food, safe havens and “home comforts”.)  So began the paramilitary reorganisation of Intaf.  The role of protector (aggressive defence) within the protected villages and an offensive capability to reclaim those areas where the terrorists had managed to subvert and dominate the people came to be.  Such areas were termed by the terrorists as liberated areas.  There were not enough units of the army to do this job.  Intaf did it and in fact the establishment of Guard Force came about as a result of the fact that the task at hand became too big even for Intaf who by the height of the bush war were geared up to do what they could.


Many District Commissioners established a district reaction force to patrol and to react to incidents.  The army were too thin on the ground to be everywhere and this role was seen by one faction of Intaf to be the logical alternative in fulfilling the traditional role.  It allowed Intaf men to be on the ground to do their work.  Such reaction forces were trained properly by Intaf personnel who had military experience.  Training was complimented by the National Service system where men were called up to do service at the Districts.  Their training was done at Chikurubi Training Depot.  This gave the DC a capability to look after his area of responsibility.  Quite often the reaction units operated in white farming areas adjacent to the TTLs.  DC’s Station Mrewa had its own tracking unit which was used to great effect.  Members of the tracking unit were sometimes seconded to army units in their tracking capacity.

DC Mtoko Reaction Unit.  Callsign 46 Tango
DC Mrewa Reaction Uniton parade
Chest title of the Mudzi Reaction Unit