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'Navy needed frigates & submarine'

Parts of the testimony given at the Arms Deal Commission will be held in-camera.

The Arms Deal Commission of Inquiry is being held at the Sammy Marks Conference Centre in Pretoria. Picture: Belinda Moses/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Some evidence at the Arms Deal Commission of Inquiry could be held in camera as the third witness from the South African Navy takes the stand in Pretoria this morning.

The commission resumed on Monday after a two week postponement in order to sort out the classification of documents and the composition of the commission.

The inquiry, which was set up by President Jacob Zuma in 2011 and is led by Judge Willie Seriti, is investigating allegations of corruption.

Members of the navy are the first witnesses lined up to testify as part of the commission's first phase of public hearings.

Rear Admiral Philip Schoultz is now giving testimony on the use of frigates and submarines obtained during the multibillion rand arms deal.

Four frigates and three submarines were acquired in the deal.

Schoultz says what was obtained helped protect the in the country and was needed.

He is giving evidence specifically on the use of equipment acquired through the deal.

He's told the commission how important it was for the navy to have this military might and that its absence may mean vulnerability.

"The frigates and the submarine were certainly the back bone of the South African Navy throughout my career. During the period that we did not have frigates their loss was keenly felt."

Some of the information Schoultz needs to share with the commission could be highly sensitive and may need to be held in-camera.

Evidence leaders say they will need to know specific details about the military's operational ability on the ground - information that doesn't need to be shared with the public.

The Trade and Industry Department is also expected to give evidence on the jobs that were created through the multi-billion rand arms deal.