Judge Willie Seriti. Picture: DAILY DISPATCH
Judge Willie Seriti. Picture: DAILY DISPATCH

THE testimony of Armscor’s corvettes project manager, Byral Smith, was interrupted on Tuesday morning following an unexpected power failure at the Seriti commission of inquiry, which led to the adjournment of the hearing until Wednesday.

Due to several construction projects in Pretoria, this was the second time that Judge Seriti was forced to adjourn the commission for a day. Earlier proceedings were postponed after a burst pipe caused flooding in a portion of the venue being used for the hearing.

Mr Smith is the third Armscor witness to take the stand in the third month of the commission’s hearings. Last Thursday the commission adjourned the hearings until Monday after Judge Seriti granted a postponement to give a legal representative time to prepare to cross-examine witnesses from Armscor.

Commission spokesman William Baloyi said on Tuesday that according to the municipality a large block within the central business district in Pretoria had experienced a power failure.

Sammy Marks Square, where the public hearings were being held, had a generator, but it had failed to start automatically. Technicians had examined it and managed to get it started, but it did not restore the hall’s electricity, Mr Baloyi said.

The commission had barely started with Mr Smith’s testimony, and was still presenting his job description and the role he played during the strategic defence procurement programme.

He told the commission that before the strategic defence procurement programme came into play, the Navy had been trying for at least five years to get the Department of Defence to approve the proposal to purchase new corvettes or frigates. However, the projects were all independent of each other.

The late defence minister Joe Modise brought them all under one programme following the defence review programme, which identified the nature of the South African National Defence Force that the government planned to establish and the equipment necessary to achieve this.

The strategic defence procurement programme, therefore, incorporated seven procurement programmes involving submarines, corvettes, various fighter jets for training and combat, and various helicopters for training, combat and maritime patrols.

The hearing continues on Wednesday.