Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has two months to appoint a new head of the National Prosecuting Authority after the High Court in Pretoria declared the post vacant.
In an unexpected turn, Judge President Dunstan Mlambo has ruled that Advocate Shaun Abrahams, the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), must vacate his seat.
Mlambo further ruled it would not be just for the former prosecutions boss Mxolisi Nxasana to be reinstated and that due to his pending corruption case, President Jacob Zuma was conflicted in appointing the NDPP.
Freedom under Law (FUL), Corruption Watch (CW) and the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC) had gone to court seeking an order declaring Nxasana's removal invalid.
Nxasana accepted a golden handshake from Zuma worth R17.3m and left the NPA in 2015.
Before that, an inquiry into his fitness to hold office was abruptly halted without explanation.
The organisations want his removal set aside and the golden handshake repaid.
Reckless in accepting golden handshake
During the hearing in November, the court heard that Zuma tried to "bully" Nxasana out of office by using an inquiry into his fitness.
In handing down judgment on Thursday, Mlambo said: "In our view President Zuma would be clearly conflicted in appointing a NDPP considering the background of this case and the spectre of allegations against him."
The court also found that the settlement agreement reached between Nxasana and Zuma was invalid and that the R17.3m golden handshake should also be set aside and be paid back by Nxasana.
Mlambo also said the termination of Nxasana should be declared unconstitutional, but that to automatically reinstate him would also be unlawful as he had acted recklessly in accepting the golden handshake.
The full bench of the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria also found that while the appointment of Abrahams as NDPP was unconstitutional, any decisions made by him while in the position are not invalid.