Transkei Defence Force

The Transkei Defence Force (TDF) was established during March 1981, from the 141 Battalion of the South African Defence Force (SADF). It was the defence force of the Republic of Transkei, a nominally independent bantustan during the Apartheid era of South Africa.

Transkei Defence Force
Flag of Transkei Defence Force
Transkei Defence Force Flag
DisbandedApril 1994
Service branchesInfantry, Special Forces, Air wing
Commander-in-ChiefPresident K.D. Matanzima, President G.M. Matanzima
Military age18–49
Related articles
HistoryMilitary history of South Africa



In 1981, the newly formed Transkei Defence Force (TDF) received a gift of equipment from the South African Defence Force.

The Rhodesian connection

In 1982, the Minister of Defence and then Prime Minister, G.M. Matazima announced the employment of a group of expatriate advisers from the former Rhodesia. A group of about 30 former Rhodesians had actually commenced employment in March 1981, under the auspices of the Security Services Transkei Company. Former Rhodesian Selous Scouts founder Ronald Reid-Daly was hired to serve as commander of the TDF and to supervise training.[1]

Head of the Defence Force

President K.D. Matanzima retired as State President in February 1986, and was succeeded by his brother, G.M. Matanzima.

Attack on the Ciskei

In 1985, Apartheid practitioners conceived a plan to merge the Transkei and Ciskei and create a 'united nation of Xhosa speakers' who they thought would support the South African government and help it to stamp out unrest in the Eastern Cape. Matanzima had long held ambitions to rule such a territory, and had opposed the 'independence' of Ciskei in 1981 in the hope that this merger would be realised.

On 19 February 1987, a truckload of Transkei special forces unsuccessfully attacked the home in Bisho of the Ciskei President, Chief Lennox Sebe. The raid was apparently under the control of the former members of the Rhodesian Security Forces, although Matanzima refused to admit Transkeian involvement. The raid appeared to be aimed at the overthrow of Lennox Sebe, but the plan, failed after it was leaked to Brigadier Bantu Holomisa.[2]

Consequences of the attack

This together with resistance to the raid from elements within the Transkei, played an important role in the ascendance to power of Ms. Stella Sigcau and Brigadier Bantu Holomisa.

By April 1987, the contracts of 27 white military officers, including the former Rhodesians, were terminated and a group of 20 of these men including their commander, Major General Ronald Reid-Daly were expelled from the Transkei.

Rumours of a coup attempt by the former State President K.D. Matanzima followed the expulsions. The botched raid also earned Transkei the enmity of South Africa which had considered the Rhodesians to be a stabilising factor.

President G.M Matanzima announced Brigadier Holomisa who had been released due to public pressure after nine weeks detention would be promoted to Major General and would succeed General Zondwa Mtirara as commander of the TDF. Holomisa had been detained by the Government as he had apparently agitated against the role of the white officers in the TDF as well as stirring disaffection on the basis of the Matanzima government.


By 23 September 1987, TDF soldiers served resignation letters on the Transkei cabinet. President G.M. Matanzima resigned in the wake of mounting evidence of corruption. Ms Stella Sigcau was elected as the new Prime Minister, but the TDF took over the administration of the Transkei in a bloodless coup on 30 December 1987, after only 86 days. Major General Holomisa declared martial law and suspended the Transkei constitution, alleging Ms. Sigcau had been involved in the corruption as well. A military council was formed and remained in power.

Coup Attempt

In November 1990, a group of six white and black soldiers attempted to mount a coup, but they failed when troops loyal to Holomisa overcame the plotters. Eighteen people were killed, including the leader of the coup, Colonel Craig Duli.


The TDF was equipped for counter-insurgency (COIN) operations. The TDF used:

  • R4/R5 assault rifles,
  • 7.62 mm (0.300 in) light machine guns,
  • 40 mm (1.6 in) multiple grenade launchers,
  • 60 mm (2.4 in) and 81 mm (3.2 in) mortars and
  • 7.62 mm (0.300 in) Browning machine guns.


Transkei Defence Force insignia
Transkei Defence Force insignia


NATO code
OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) and student officer
Transkei Transkei
No equivalent Transkei-Army-OF-9.svg Transkei-Army-OF-8.svg Transkei-Army-OF-7.svg No equivalent Transkei-Army-OF-5.svg Transkei-Army-OF-4.svg Transkei-Army-OF-3.svg Transkei-Army-OF-2.svg Transkei-Army-OF-1b.svg Transkei-Army-OF-1b.svg Unknown
Lieutenant general
Major general
Lieutenant colonel
2nd lieutenant
NATO code
OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
Transkei Transkei
TDF Rank Warrant Officer class 1 TDF Rank Warrant Officer Class 2 TDF Rank Brassard Staff Sergeant TDF Rank Brassard Sergeant No equivalent TDF Rank Brassard Corporal TDF Rank Brassard L Corporal No insignia
Chief warrant officer
Warrant officer
Staff sergeant
Lance corporal


With the end of Apartheid in 1994 in South Africa, the former defence forces of the Bantustans were incorporated into the newly formed South African National Defence Force.[3] The SANDF's new 14 South African Infantry Battalion heraldry clearly originates from the Transkei Defence Force, its forbear.

Flag of Transkei Defence Force Army
Transkei Defence Force Army Flag
SADF 14 SAI emblem
SANDF's 14 SAI emblem


  1. ^ "Lieutenant-Colonel Ron Reid-Daly". The Telegraph.
  2. ^ tinashe (16 March 2011). "Transkei". Retrieved 2 April 2018.
  3. ^ "The present and future role of the Transkei defence force in a changing South Africa". Journal of Contemporary African Studies. 11: 255–269. doi:10.1080/02589009208729541.
14 South African Infantry Battalion

14 South African Infantry Battalion is a motorised infantry unit of the South African Army.

Bantu Holomisa

Bantubonke Harrington Holomisa (born 25 July 1955) is a South African Member of Parliament and President of the United Democratic Movement.Holomisa was born in Mqanduli, Eastern Cape. He joined the Transkei Defence Force in 1976 and had become a Brigadier by 1985.Holomisa forced the resignation and exile of Prime Minister of Transkei George Matanzima in October 1987 and overthrew Matanzima's successor, Prime Minister Stella Sigcau in December 1987. Holomisa then became the Transkei's head of government from 1987 to 1994, when Transkei was reintegrated into South Africa.

Bronze Medal for Merit

The Bronze Medal for Merit, post-nominal letters BMM, was instituted by the President of the Republic of South Africa in April 1996. It was awarded to veteran cadres of the Azanian People's Liberation Army, the military wing of the Pan Africanist Congress, for service of a high order during the "struggle".

Chief C.D.F. Commendation Medal

The Chief C.D.F. Commendation Medal was instituted by the President of the Republic of Ciskei in 1992, for award to all ranks for service commended by the Chief of the Ciskei Defence Force.

Cross for Bravery

The Cross for Bravery was instituted by the State President of the Republic of Transkei, for award to all ranks as a decoration for bravery.

Defence Forces

Defence Force(s) or Defense Force(s) is the title of the armed forces of certain countries.

Derrick Mgwebi

Lieutenant General Derrick Mgwebi (born 1956) is a South African military commander, serving as Director of the Joint Operations Division.

Eastern Province Command

Eastern Province Command was a command of the South African Army.

Faithful Service Medal (Transkei)

The Faithful Service Medal was instituted by the State President of the Republic of Transkei in 1987, for award to all ranks as a long service medal.

Independence Medal (Transkei)

The Independence Medal was instituted by the State President of the Republic of Transkei to commemorate Independence on 26 October 1976. It was awarded to all ranks on the active strength of the Transkei Defence Force upon independence.

Military Rule Medal

The Military Rule Medal was instituted by the State President of the Republic of Transkei to commemorate the bloodless military coup d'état which overthrew the Transkei government on 30 November 1987.

Qaqambile Matanzima

Qaqambile Matanzima (December 15, 1949 – August 5, 2013) was a South Africa politician and tribal leader. Matanzima had served as a colonel in the former Transkei Defence Force (TDF), the military force the Republic of Transkei, a de facto independent Bantustan which existed from 1976 to 1994. After Transkei was reincorporated into South Africa, Matanzima joined the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), leaving the military as a colonel in 1996. He was nicknamed "Big Q."

South African military decorations order of wear

The first South African military medal was a campaign medal, the South Africa Medal, instituted in 1854 by Queen Victoria, the Monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, for award to officers and men of the Royal Navy and British Army who served on the Eastern Frontier of the Cape Colony between 1834 and 1853 during the Xhosa Wars.Five more South African campaign medals were instituted during the Colonial era until 1910, when the Union of South Africa was established as a dominion of the British Empire. After Union and until 1952, members of the Union Defence Forces (UDF) could be awarded decorations and medals of the British Empire and, from 1949, the British Commonwealth. A number of purely South African decorations and medals were also instituted during this period, such as belated awards for Boer forces who fought in the Second Boer War, a Union commemorative medal and South African versions of some Empire medals with bilingual inscriptions in English and Dutch or Afrikaans.The first purely South African military orders, decorations and medals were instituted in 1952 by Queen Elizabeth II, the Monarch of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth realms. From 1961 decorations and medals were instituted by the South African State President and, between 1976 and 1994, also by the Presidents of the TBVC States, Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei. These awards were instituted in seven groups for the seven separate military and para-military forces which were integrated into the South African National Defence Force in 1994.

Themba Matanzima

Lieutenant General Themba Matanzima is a former South African Army officer, serving as Military Ombudsman.He was born on 2 February 1953 in Cofimvaba. He joined the Transkei Defence Force in January 1977.


Transkei (, meaning the area beyond [the river] Kei), officially the Republic of Transkei (Xhosa: iRiphabliki yeTranskei), was an unrecognised state in the southeastern region of South Africa from 1976 to 1994. It was a Bantustan—an area set aside for members of a specific ethnicity—and operated as a nominally independent parliamentary democracy. Its capital was Umtata (renamed Mthatha in 2004).Transkei represented a significant precedent and historic turning point in South Africa's policy of apartheid and "separate development"; it was the first of four territories to be declared independent of South Africa. Throughout its existence, it remained an internationally unrecognised, diplomatically isolated, politically unstable de facto one-party state, which at one point broke relations with South Africa, the only country that acknowledged it as a legal entity. In 1994, it was reintegrated into its larger neighbour and became part of the Eastern Cape province.

Transkei Defence Force Medal

The Transkei Defence Force Medal was instituted by the State President of the Republic of Transkei for award to all ranks as a military medal for merit.

Transkeian honours system

The Transkeian honours system was instituted after Transkei was declared independent in 1976.

A range of orders, decorations, and medals were instituted including the Military Rule Medal,1987

Since 1994, when Transkei was reincorporated into the Republic of South Africa, the obsolete Transkeian honours system has now been given a place within the South African order of wear.

Unitas Medal

The Unitas Medal was instituted by the President of the Republic of South Africa on 4 November 1994. It was awarded to all ranks who were on the active strength of all seven constituent military forces from 27 April 1994 to 10 May 1994, to commemorate their amalgamation into the South African National Defence Force. It was also awarded to personnel of the British Military Advisory and Training Team which served in South Africa at the time.

Vusumuzi Masondo

Lieutenant General Vusumuzi Masondo is a South African military commander.

He was born in Umtata on 21 December 1957. After graduating from University in 1978, he joined the Transkei Defence Force in 1979, undergoing training in Lohatla and Walvis Bay. He served in various capacities in the Transkei Forces until it's integration into the South African National Defence Force in 1994.

He holds a Certificate in Defence Management from the University of the Witwatersrand, a Certificate in Labour Relations from the University of Pretoria and a B Comm degree. He is currently studying towards a B Comm Honours degree from the University of South Africa. Masondo is married with three children.

South African Army Units
Divisions and Brigades
Armoured Formation (SAAAF)
Infantry Formation (SAAIF)
Artillery Formation
Air Defence Artillery Formation
Engineer Formation
Training Formation
Support Formation
Signals Formation
Disbanded or Amalgamated Units

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