National Intervention Unit

South African Police Service National Intervention Unit
National Intervention Unit Operational Badge
Active 2000 – present
Country South Africa
Branch South African Police Service
Role Medium to High Risk Law Enforcement
Size ~ 280-330 operators
Part of Under control of Division Operational Response Services
Stationed in Pretoria, Durban, Mthatha or Cape Town
Nickname NIU
Brigadier ME Tsiloane
A Tactical Police Team Member National Intervention Unit


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.


To stabilise volatile situations by combating serious and violent crimes, the policing of high-risk public violence, rendering specialised operational support to provinces/units/divisions of South Africa.


The NIU render a specialised operational support function focused on planned, intelligence-driven and targeted deployments to address specific incidents of crime and public violence, and not day-to-day crowd management operations.[1]

Function Overview

Primary Functions

In situations where other South African Police Service Units, Sections, Stations are not trained and equipped to deal with dangerous situations, the Intervention Units will take over, contain and conduct follow-up operations of incidents of serious violent crimes such as but not limited to:

The rendering of specialized operational support:

  • The National Intervention Unit will render assistance to various units with
  • The apprehension and escorting of dangerous high profile criminals and;
  • The safeguarding of VIP’s whenever a need arises.
  • Participate in planned intelligence driven operations.
  • The combating of public violence (not day-to-day crowd management operations):
  • The National Intervention Unit will perform specialized tasks in Urban and Rural[2] areas to combat violent public collective actions, e.g. intergroup violence.

Secondary Functions


Divisional Instruction: Establishing and Functioning of National Intervention Units, 20 February 2010.


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,[3] armed robberies and Urban Terrorism.[4]

Recruitment and training

Prospective members have to be at least 21 years old and must have served at least two years in the South African Police Service. The volunteer must also show certain traits such as:

  • Physical strength and ability
  • A sense of responsibility
  • Mental Endurance
  • Maturity
  • Leadership skills
  • Sound judgement
  • Perseverance
  • Rational and methodical thinking
  • Handling stress
  • Observation and orientation skills

Applicants for a career in the NIU must be:

  • Willing to undergo and pass psychometric evaluations;
  • Medically fit (with doctor’s recommendations);
  • Able to and skilled at swimming ;
  • Prepared to undergo training for Five months, (All Phases);
  • Voluntary applicants;
  • Permanent members of the SAPS with the rank of Constable, Sergeant or Warrant Officer;
  • Comply with the specific physical requirements for male or female candidates respectively; and
  • Prepared to do advanced courses for three years.

Willing to undergo Phobia testing

Successfully complete a pre-selection programme

Prospective candidates who volunteer must undergo and successfully complete a pre-selection programme which includes psychometric evaluations before they will progress to an individual endurance programme.

The 69-hour individual endurance programme assesses the individual’s attributes which includes:

  • Effects on the individual during sleep deprivation;
  • Effects on the individual due to a lack of food;
  • Ability to perform optimally under strenuous situations while deprived of sleep and food;
  • Ability to perform in a team context;
  • Ability to lead a group while under strenuous physical and mental stress;
  • Ability to encourage group cohesion while under mental stress;
  • Ability to show initiative.

Prospective 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).[5]

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 [6] and stabilizing Industrial and Mining unrest operations [7] as well as stabilizing Political Violence.[8]

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.[9] 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”."[10] When questioned, Modiba could not recall that he had read the police’s crime scene policy.[11][12]

The National Intervention Unit, as a part of the Formed Police Unit / African Standby Force (ASF) for SADC (Southern African Development Community) is conducting operations in Lesotho attempting to restore peace, stability and democracy.[13]


Name Photo Type Origin Notes
Beretta Px4 Storm Semi-Automatic Pistol  Italy The Beretta Px4 Storm Type F model is used.
Heckler & Koch UMP9 Submachine gun  Germany The UMP9 model is used with Optical Sights, Tactical Light & Laser sights
R5 Assault Rifle Assault Rifle  South Africa Standard Assault Rifle of the South African Police and the post-1994 South African Police Service. NIU uses various optical sights.
R1 Assault Rifle Assault Rifle  South Africa/ Belgium An automatic, folding stock R1 Assault rifle.
Republican Arms Musler 12 gauge shotgun Shotgun  South Africa
Stun Grenade Stun grenade  United Kingdom
Smoke Grenade Smoke grenade  United States

See also

External links

  • Official website
  • (English) sapsjournalonline


  1. ^ "South African Police Training Overview". South African Police Service. Retrieved 8 October 2014. 
  2. ^ AL J, Venter. Barrel of A Gun. Casemate Publishers. p. 485.  
  3. ^ Dagada, Rabelani (7 Oct 2014). "Local banks fight back". itweb. Retrieved 8 October 2014. 
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ [2]
  11. ^ [3]
  12. ^
  13. ^ Sello, Lenyaro (3 September 2014). "SAPS in Lesotho to calm tensions". enca. Retrieved 8 October 2014. 
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