The Special Branch (SB) was a division of the British South Africa Police (BSAP) developed created in the early 1950s. SB became The Central Intelligence Organisation after Zimbabwe attained its independence from the Ian Smith minority government. SB covered the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland but it remained active in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) beyond the dissolution of the Federation.

Interrogation Tactics

SB used violent interrogation of suspects captured, mostly guerrilla combatants and informants. Asked about SB's interrogation methods during the war of Zimbabwe's independence, Special Branch JOC Officer, Dan Stannard, said in an interview in 2008:

I can say from my personal experience that a lot of the interrogations were physical. We would get a man who was considered to be a guerrilla or having carried out some actions, burning hospitals, dormitories and the usual system was, once we'd got his fingerprints and photographs he would be handed over to the African detectives, members of the Special Branch who then used to beat him until such time as they got the truth from him and then bring him back. And then I would sort of carry on from there and establish the story and who was with him and the full background. That was normally the way interrogation was conducted. There were instances where no force was used, it was not necessary because they were quite willing to talk about their experiences but generally speaking it started out with a beating by the African members of Special Branch until he started talking. That's the way it worked normally.

That was by African Members of the BSAP. These were not white Rhodesian members of the BSAP?
Well, it was a combination but you know it was easier to interrogate sometimes in your own language. Therefore it was quicker to say to your Special Branch team of blacks, "here he is, this is what he's done" and they knew and they would do the interrogation and normally when he was becoming co-operative, he would come back and they would tell us.

Dan, was there a rule book on this?
No there was not. The superiors didn't really want to know, they just wanted the results. They wanted to know what was happening and they wanted it quickly. How we did it was left to us, there was no questions asked.

I have to ask, that level of physical violence, even if to serve a purpose to extract information which could be then put, in your view, to the greater good, did you at any point see that as violence against the African population?

No, not at all. We saw it as a necessary method, a harsh method to get information to try and stop this spread of what was going on and the African members of Special Branch and CID were even more keen to try and eradicate this problem. So they never had a problem themselves in this type of interrogation.[1]


  1. Dan Stannard, University of West England Rhodesian Forces Oral History Project, Retrieved: 10 April 2018