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The need for a Civilian Secretariat for Safety and Security was identified by the Minister for Safety and Security in 1994. The key objectives of the envisaged structure were to provide government with civilian policy management capacity, independent of the vested and occupational interest of the Police Service. This culminated in the inclusion of a chapter defining the role of the Secretariat in the South African Police Services Act of 1995. The Secretariat is also provided for in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (Act 108 of 1996).

The Secretary for the Safety and Security Secretariat was appointed in December 1995, and two Chief Directors were appointed and assumed duties in January 1996.

The Secretariat immediately took over most of the activities of the Interim Advisory Team on the Amalgamation, Rationalisation and Transformation of the South African Police Service (SAPS), which had been established by Minister Mufamadi in May 1994. The Secretariat for Safety and Security was established at a time of great public concern over levels of crime being experienced in South Africa.