Pikoli : Shrewd and Assertive
Vusi Pikoli has always been known as his own man.
In 2005, soon after he had left his job as director-general in the Department of Justice to succeed Bulelani Ngcuka as head of the National Prosecuting Authority, Pikoli clearly wanted to demonstrate this aspect of his character.
And he did that in the aftermath of what remains his biggest decision to date. He charged former deputy president Jacob Zuma with fraud and corruption.
After speculation that he was influenced by President Thabo Mbeki to take action against Zuma, Pikoli made it clear that he was the only one who took the decision.
He said Mbeki had not been consulted, as reported in the media, about whether or not to charge Zuma.
"The only people I called in was the team that was involved in the prosecution of Schabir Shaik and senior executives.
"Prosecutors take the decision to prosecute people, and no one else," he said at the time.
Pikoli chose his words carefully as these were meant to drive home one powerful message: that he was strong and independent.
A former colleague of Pikoli, who expressed shock at Pikoli's suspension, described him as a shrewd stickler for rules and principles. He said he was a brave campaigner for justice.
"He did not think twice about taking decisions about even people who were close to him," the former colleague said, adding that he took his staff with him, explaining the reasons behind the decisions he took.
At the Khampepe Commission hearings, instituted by Mbeki to get to the bottom of the problems between the Scorpions and the SAPS, Pikoli delivered a spirited defence of his organisation and strongly argued against it being relegated to a "second class" law enforcement agency.
And so it would seem that what was Pikoli's strong point would later lead to his downfall.
Sources have told The Star that when he was warned that one of his departments - the Directorate of Special Operations, or Scorpions - was involved in illegal intelligence gathering exercises, he remained unmoved, convinced that his people were just doing their job.
The illegal intelligence project led to the production of a hugely politically explosive report, called the Browser: Mole.
The report claimed that Zuma was being bankrolled by Angolan President Eduardo dos Santos and Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi.
Soon after the Browser report was made public, security chiefs and the presidency expressed their concern.
Dr Frank Chikane, the director-general in the presidency, said at the time that the report was designed to cause confusion, mistrust and division in government and within and among some political organisatios and organs of civil society.
The Star understands that Pikoli's failure to distance himself from the report and to take action against those who produced it was his downfall.
"His attitude is that he must be left alone because he is just doing his job. In refusing to take action against those who were responsible for the report, he took responsibility for the actions of those who work under him.
"So he left the authorities with no option but to take action against him," said a government official.
With acknowledgements to The Star.