Former Correctional Services minister Ngconde Balfour has mysteriously resigned as high commissioner to Botswana, less than a year after the diplomatic posting.

The Department of International Relations and Co-operation confirmed this week that Balfour was back in the country having decided to quit the position.

Saul Molobi, the department's spokesman, said: "He has resigned and he served his notice in May. He said he wanted to pursue private interests. He is no longer in the employ of the government."

When contacted on Friday Balfour said: "You spoke to the department, why do you phone me now?" He then hung up the phone.

Although it is not clear what prompted Balfour to quit after serving only a few months after he took over the job from Dikgang Moopela, it is believed that he was not happy serving as ambassador to the neighbouring state and had expected a high-profile country. But this could not be verified independently.

When the Jacob Zuma administration took over the reins, Balfour became an ordinary ANC MP. The Sunday Independent reported that he was so frustrated with the demotion that he seldom attended parliamentary sessions.

A few months later Zuma posted him to Gaborone.

During that time, his wife Thozama Mqobi-Balfour and former prisons chief Xolisa Sibeko were suspended by correctional services for renting lavish homes at taxpayers' expense. Sibeko was cleared, but the case against Mqobi-Balfour has yet to be finalised.

Also, revelations of corruption in correctional services during Balfour's tenure emerged during his diplomatic posting.

However, Balfour was neither implicated nor accused of any wrongdoing regarding the two incidents.

The resignation of Balfour comes as the diplomatic career of the ambassador-designate to Washington, Ebrahim Rasool, was thrown into disarray following serious allegations that involved the payment of a former Cape Argus political reporter to promote Rasool.

Former political reporter Ashley Smith claimed in his affidavit that in return for business from Rasool's administration, they wrote favourable stories about him while discrediting his political opponents.

The ANC has adopted a wait-and-see attitude on the Rasool matter.

ANC spokesman Brian Sokutu, on Friday, reiterated their earlier statement that due process of the law be given a chance before they could comment on the matter. Sokutu said Rasool would take up his position in Washington.

"For now nothing has changed. He has the necessary credentials. He has the political acumen, having served the ANC in various capacities, including as premier and provincial chairman," said Sokutu.

Molobi had earlier in the week said the Department of International Relations could not comment as Rasool had not been confirmed by the US as ambassador to that country.

But deputy press attaché in the US embassy, Elizabeth Trudeau, told Independent Newspapers on Friday that her country had accepted Rasool's appointment on June 24.

"We look forward to his arrival in Washington, D C," said Trudeau. She did not know when Rasool would start his new job.

Molobi and ministry spokesman Malusi Mogale could not be reached for comment after Trudeau's comments. Rasool did not respond to calls.

Rasool was appointed to replace Welile Nhlapo, who is now Zuma's national security adviser.

The revelations have led to opposition calls that Rasool should not take up the position.

They instead believe he should be investigated for abuse of power and corruption.