The South African presidency confirmed on Wednesday that it is in talks with Frank Chikane to stay on as its director general, but denies that this is linked to the departure of former president Thabo Mbeki.

Spokesman Thabang Chiloane said Chikane had indicated last year that he would not renew his contract at the end of this month as he wanted to move on to something else.

Since Mbeki’s departure, his successor President Kgalema Motlanthe is continuing the discussions in the hopes that Chikane will stay. “If Mbeki had still been president, the situation would have been the same,” said Chiloane.

“You don’t discard somebody who has over 13 years in one place. He is almost an institution in the value of information he has,” he added.

Chikane joined the presidency as an advisor in the deputy president’s office, then became director general there, before moving on to be director general in the president’s office. His political history includes being a leader of the South African Students Congress and a founding member of the anti-apartheid United Democratic Front.

He survived a bizarre attempt by the apartheid security forces to kill him by lacing his underwear with poison.

According to a biography on the presidency website, Chikane’s professional career includes teacher at Naledi High School in Soweto, a technical research assistant in the nuclear physics research unit at Wits University, general secretary of the South African Council of Churches and senior research officer at the University of Cape Town.

Mbeki resigned in September after being told to do so by the ruling ANC. His departure was followed by a number or ministerial resignations and the appointment of a new Cabinet.