Vusi Pikoli's tenure as chief of the NDPP has been rocked by controversy since his appointment in 2005.
The NDPP's impartiality, particularly the directorate of special operations (Scorpions), has been constantly questioned even before Pikoli's tenure, having been burdened by ongoing investigations of ANC deputy president Jacob Zuma for almost a decade. When Zuma's fraud case was struck off the roll early this year, Judge Herbert Msimang said the state had left him "with no choice" as the case had "limped from one disaster to another".
The most damaging criticism was levelled against Pikoli for his poor judgment of the discredited Special Browse Mole Report, whose credibility he seemingly did not doubt.
The report implicated several African leaders including Muammar Gaddafi of Libya and Angola's Eduardo Do Santos, in a plot to overthrow the government and place Zuma as its head. The report, compiled by discredited apartheid-era securocrats, also implicated MK veterans as part of the conspiracy to stage a coup.
A government-appointed committee found the report to have no substance. The committee blamed agent provocateurs from the apartheid-era of being behind the report. In announcing Pikoli's suspension, the government statement pointed to "irretrievable breakdown in the working relationship between the minister of justice and constitutional development and the NDPP".
Pikoli's suspension though came as a surprise. The control of the Scorpions has been under contestation. The contest has been whether or not it should fall, or be integrated, under the SAPS, leading to the Khampepe Commission. During the sittings of the commission, the hearing was told that the Scorpions were vulnerable to external intelligence operatives.
Pikoli had taken over from Bulelani Ngcuka, who served for seven years before he left to go into business.