Picture: African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Pretoria - The State Information Technology Agency (Sita) has not ruled out sabotage after the entity experienced a power outage on Friday that caused an IT system failure that affected all government departments.

“We don’t want to start pointing fingers regarding sabotage. But it is not something we ignore because we are aware of how many feathers we are ruffling and the stance we’ve taken as a company - the board supporting the CEO and changes happening at Sita right now (where) a lot of people are uncomfortable.

“We are not saying anything openly on sabotage but we are not excluding it completely,” Sita board member Nokuzola Ehrens said.

He made the statement yesterday when the entity briefed a joint meeting of the home affairs and telecommunications and postal services portfolio committee about the outage that caused a systems failure at Sita in Pretoria.

The outage adversely affected the Home Affairs Department.

“Because we needed the fingerprints database, it was difficult to service clients,” acting director-general Thulani Mavuso said.

The system's failure was blamed on a power failure after a generator did not automatically switch on despite maintenance work a few weeks ago. The situation was compounded when the fuel pump for the diesel generator was burnt.

“The incidents bring into question issues relating to regular scheduled preventative maintenance of Sita data facilities. We are of the view that there seems to be a lack of an early warning system installed to monitor and alert us if there is a power outage,” Mavuso said.

Sita executive officer Setumo Mohapi said it was very rare to have such a disaster and for every backup plan to fail.

“We are still not sure what caused the fuel pump to burn, but in terms of remedial action, we are intensifying communication with the City (of Tshwane) so we get better warnings,” he said.

“I would like to personally offer my sincere apologies to the committee and to the citizens who went to the offices but did not get service,” Mohapi said.

The ANC’s Dikeledi Tsotetsi said there was somehow sabotage as the backup generator did not immediately kick in.

Tsotetsi said the situation could get worse and that something should be done to get to the root cause of the outage.

The DA’s Marian Shinn said the power outage was suspicious and asked if Mohapi felt threatened as to his personal safety and that of other staff members of Sita because of the anti-corruption drive.

“Have you thought human intervention caused large-scale outages and asked for that to be investigated by the relevant security authority?” Shinn asked.

The ANC’s Donald Gumede said the outages were common in the capital and that sabotage could be behind them.

Jabu Mahlangu, chairperson of the telecommunication and postal services committee, said sabotage in Pretoria could not be forgiven.

“We know for a fact that Sita is under siege. I don’t know if that situation has been overcome,” he said before making reference about reports of the Boeremag having infiltrated Sita.

Political Bureau