State of the Nation media statement issued by the President of the United Democratic Movement (8 February 2008)

Despite a theme of "Business unusual" President Mbeki said nothing new in his speech to Parliament.

His repeated calls upon the nation to unite to face the challenges ahead are ironic when it is the ANC as party and ANC as government that is divided against itself. Their infighting has created uncertainty among the senior leaders of the civil service about their futures. Ministers, DGs, Premiers, MECs, Mayors and the Heads of Governmental institutions are fearing a large-scale purge. Already we have seen the first of these purges and thus it is disingenuous to urge the nation to unify to overcome our challenges when the civil service is paralysed by infighting, purges and fear because of the ANC's internal politics.

We note that he has acknowledged that government must do more and accelerate service delivery, perhaps at long last government is responding to more than two years of widespread public protests in this regard. The sad truth is that accelerated service delivery is not possible when the capacity constraints besetting the civil service - especially at provincial and local level - has not been addressed. The entire situation will in fact only deteriorate when one considers that the current atmosphere of infighting and purges is further crippling the civil service.

We are concerned about his evasiveness about the future of the Scorpions. The nation is still not assured whether the Scorpions will be protected or disbanded - as per the ANC resolution - when this revamping of the criminal justice system is implemented. His reference to the Khampepe Commission does not necessarily imply he will follow its recommendations. Indeed why did he not implement the recommendations of that Commission in the first instance?

The criminal justice system reform that is required will take several years to complete successfully and it would be reckless to tamper in any way with the Scorpions which is the most successful component of that system. To avoid legal and labour court challenges on this matter of reviewing the justice system we should not entertain any attempt to blackmail or hold to ransom the process from a faction in the ANC.

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