The Ministry of Internal Affairs, commonly known as INTAF (or Intaf), was one of the most important branches of the Rhodesian government. It was responsible for the welfare and development of the black African rural population. It had uniformed District Commissioners, Assistant District Commissioners and District Assistants responsible for administering rural areas. The ministry maintained its own security force, the Guard Force, which played an important role in defending government control of black African villages during the Rhodesian Bush War.
When Robert Mugabe came to power, the ministry became the Ministry of Home Affairs.
In 1894 the British South Africa Company established the Native Affairs Department to be responsible for the welfare of black Africans living on tribal trust lands. The Head of the Department was the Administrator in Council; beneath him was the Secretary for Native Affairs. Under the Secretary were the two Chief Native Commissioners of Matabeleland and Mashonaland. Under the Chief Native Commissioners were Native Commissioners, who were responsible for the administration of their tribal districts and sub-districts. They were assisted by Assistant Native Commissioners.
In 1962 the Native Affairs Department was renamed the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Following the ranks of the Colonial Service, the Native Commissioners were renamed District Commissioners.
District Commissioners, Assistant District Commissioners and District Assistants were expected to be qualified in Rhodesian law, the customary law of the tribe they dealt with, and the tribal language (i.e. Shona or Sindebele). As the Bush War placed pressure on Intaf, new District Assistants were recruited to serve for the duration of the war - these were called District Security Assistants. The security force of Intaf was known as the Guard Force. This was the descendant of the Matabele Native Police raised in 1894.
In 1975, with the security situation increasingly volatile, a training depot was set up at Chikurubi to ensure all new District Assistants and all members of the Guard Force had full military training. Training instructors were recruited from the Rhodesian Light Infantry. Members of the Guard Force were mainly black volunteers, but also included white conscripts. The mainstay of National Servicmen were regular officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The Administration cadet national servicemen were Cadet 1 and 2, District Officers and Assistant District Commissioners. Agricultural Officers and African Development Fund men were also National Servicemen trained at Chikurubi. Their training included drill, weapons, map reading, African Custmons and African Languages.
As well as providing security at villages, Guard Force personnel patrolled the surrounding area. According to the local situation and resources, this was done on foot, on bicycles, in motor vehicles, or on horseback. The utility of Intaf horse-mounted units led to the formation of Grey's Scouts, an army horse-mounted unit, in 1975.
As the war progressed, Intaf formed an elite military branch called the Administrative Reinforcement Units (ARU); these consisted of eight troops (one for each province). The ARU were reinforced with volunteers seconded from the Rhodesian African Rifles, Rhodesian Defence Regiment, and Selous Scouts.
Reservists called up for service with Intaf were generally allotted to units known as "echelons". There was one INTAF echelon for each province.
Intaf maintained light aircraft for transport and reconnaissance, of which one was shot down during the Bush War.
Members of INTAF initially wore a khaki uniform formerly worn by the Rhodesian Army with a red beret or a slouch hat with red puggaree, but later wore camouflage.
Internal Affairs personnel played a prominent role in the war. They served at Joint Operational Centres and were involved in setting up the protected villages program. The paramilitary "Guard Force” later became responsible for security of the protected villages INTAF controlled this force.