The Brazilian prematurely ended his 18-month stay in charge of the 2010 World Cup hosts after coming under increased pressure in the aftermath of a poor run of results which has seen the team lose eight of nine games.

Assistants Jairo Leal, a compatriot of Santana, and Pitso Mosimane will continue as caretaker coaches in the interim, but a decision on their own future could be decided on Friday when a National Executive Committee of the South African Football Association (SAFA) meets.

"Of course it was difficult in terms of sentiments," Mazibuko said. "But during such times you have to put aside sentiments and remember that this is a matter of national importance and we had to take a decision.

"In the bigger picture and the interest of the country, he realised while he was doing his best, his best was not good enough.

"We parted company with Mr Joel Santana amicably and appointed his two assistants as caretaker coaches."

A statement from SAFA read: "On Monday, 19 October 2009, it was unanimously agreed between the management committee representing the South African Football Association and the senior national coach Mr Joel Natalino Santana, that Mr Santana would, with immediate effect vacate his current position as Bafana Bafana national coach," read a statement from the South African Football Association.

"In the interim, the management committee resolved that Mr Jairo Leal and Mr Pitso Mosimane would assume the role of caretaker coaches, pending a decision by the National Executive at its meeting to be held on Friday, 23 October 2009.

"The president of the Association Mr Kirsten Nematandani thanked Mr Santana for his efforts to date and wished him success in all his future ventures.

"Similarly, Mr Santana took the opportunity to thank the Association, his technical staff, the players, and the country for their support, and wished Bafana Bafana every success for the FIFA 2010 World Cup."

Santana's fate seemed to have been set in stone for almost two weeks now, when it was announced new SAFA president Nematandani had appointed a three-man task team - made up of former national coaches Jomo Sono and Clive Barker as well as top local coach Gavin Hunt - to look into the recent decline of the 1996 African champions.

Under the South American, Bafana Bafana played 27 matches, losing 14, drawing three and winning 10, the most recent coming against lowly Madagascar.

However, Mazibuko pointed out that Santana's decision had nothing to do with the three-man team, who were appointed before South Africa's last two games - 1-0 losses to Norway and Iceland last week.

He added: "We have not yet received the report of the three assessors.

"I can only say that we reached an amicable decision and it was easier to reach the decision as he also accepted that things were just not going his way and agreed that perhaps it would be best to part ways for all parties concerned."

Ironically former coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, the man who recommended Santana for the post, is now the favourite to return.