After becoming Prime Minister of South Africa in 1966, John Vorster met with Hendrik van den Bergh, the head of the South African Police Security Branch. At this meeting, Van den Bergh convinced Vorster that the country's military intelligence was inadequate.
Subsequently Vorster established the Bureau of State Security (BOSS), under the leadership of Van den Bergh, through the Public Service Amendment Act of 1969. This Act did not give a full brief for the agency, but in 1972 the State Security Council Act No. 64 (1972) laid out the purpose of BOSS.
The Bureau's job was to identify any threat to the country and to collect, evaluate, correlate and interpret national-security intelligence information. BOSS was also supposed to propose a "policy relating to national security intelligence" (Roherty, 1992: 72)
BOSS became involved in the Angolan war, as it believed it that Soviet Russia could potentially infiltrate South Africa through Angola. This close relationship between Van den Bergh and Vorster bothered the then Minister of Defence, P. W. Botha, as BOSS became increasingly powerful in the late 1970s. In certain respects, BOSS was even more powerful than the Ministries of Defence and Foreign Affairs.
In 1979, Vorster, who had become State President in 1978, was forced to resign after his alleged involvement with the Information Scandal. This scandal involved government funds which were used to buy a pro-National Party English newspaper, The Citizen. BOSS was found to have been closely involved in the scandal.
Botha, who then succeeded Vorster, called for Van den Bergh's resignation as head of BOSS. In 1980, the Bureau was replaced by a new intelligence agency, the National Intelligence Service (NIS), and Dr Lukas Barnard was appointed Director.
- Roherty, J. M. (1992). State security in South Africa. Civil-Military relations under P. W. Botha, New York & London: M. E. Sharpe Inc.
- Barron, C. (1999). 'The Judge was a pawn in PW's cover-up bid", Sunday Times, Insight, 25 April. Available at: suntimes.co.za [this link no longer works]