The Police Mobile Unit

The Nucleus of the Botswana Defence Force, 1960s–1977

In: Journal of African Military History


This article examines the local and regional contexts surrounding the creation and evolution of the Police Mobile Unit (PMU), Bechuanaland’s (Botswana today) paramilitary unit that was created in 1963 to contain internal riots. After Botswana’s independence in 1966, the PMU acted as a quasi-military because the country had no armed force to preform those duties. This was because from the mid-1960s, Southern Africa was marred with bloodshed due to armed struggles in Rhodesia, South Africa among others. Botswana then became a safe haven for fleeing guerrillas who would enter the country illegally. Being the only line of defence, the PMU was quickly militarised and tasked with patrolling Botswana’s borders in order to arrest those guerrillas and possibly avoid being attacked by security forces of both Rhodesia and South Africa. This however did not work as planned because the PMU was simply too small and ill equipped for the task.

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