Was Ngcuka's Resignation Inevitable, Analysts Ask?
The timing and manner of Bulelani Ngucka's resignation spoke of political pressure, not just a personal desire to move on, political analysts agreed on Monday.
"I am sure it is a pressurised resignation. He must be exhausted," said HSBC banking group political analyst Nic Boraine.
"The unfortunate thing is that his legal work had political implications of such a nature that he got sucked into serious political battles within the ANC," said independent political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi.
Following newspaper leaks over the weekend the National Prosecuting Authority confirmed on Monday that Ngcuka, who had held the post of National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) since 1998, had submitted his resignation.
President Thabo Mbeki is on leave this week, and is yet to respond.
While no political analyst believed Ngcuka was asked to resign, most felt his work had put him, or was bound to put him, in an unbearable political situation.
But it was this very work that gave Ngcuka the reputation of being the tireless, impartial watchdog required of the post.
In his six years in office he successfully prosecuted former ANC chief whip Tony Yengeni for corruption and brought Deputy President Jacob Zuma into his investigations of irregularities in South Africa's multi-million rand arms deal. The trial of Zuma's financial adviser Shabir Shaik is imminent.
Is any NDPP who is seen to be doing a good job likely to get pressurised out of their job, Judith February of Idasa was asked. She said: "If it is perceived that you do this too well you are going to come into trouble. This is not a uniquely South African situation. That's the way of politics. We shouldn't be surprised".
The opposition political parties have always maintained that the position of NDPP should be occupied by someone with no links to the ANC, so as to avoid the sort of political pressure they claim was brought to bear on Ngcuka.
However, Boraine suggested that on the contrary Ngcuka was not senior enough in the ANC, and that a more senior party member would not have found it so hard to take on ANC heavyweights suspected of corruption.
"He was not a big enough and powerful enough figure in the history of the liberation movement. He wasn't senior enough to take on the Tony Yengenis and the Jacob Zumas. He was open to the accusation of grandstanding." said Boraine.
February also believed that Ngcuka's successor should have enough "political clout".
"We need someone who is robust enough. Someone with very close party ties would have the political clout."
Steven Friedman of the Wits Centre for Policy Studies said the affiliations of the new incumbent were entirely beside the point, and that it was all about how they performed in the position.
Until the new NDPP had proved his/her impartiality, however, public perceptions of the state institution would be unstable.
This worried February and Friedman, who said public confidence in the NPA was vital.
"Part of building a strong, robust institution is about public perceptions. This (Ngcuka's resignation) is a setback for that process," said February.
She said all state institutions had been placed under pressure as a result of the arms deal allegations, and it was unfortunate that Ngcuka had decided to resign now. "It would have been better if he had seen that through."
However, Makosini Nkosi, spokesman for the NPA, said these worries were unfounded.
"To his credit Mr Ngcuka has set up a very strong organisation that can survive the departure of any one person."
Matshiqi also felt Ngcuka's resignation should not have too much of an impact on the functioning of the authority.
With acknowledgement to Sapa.