President Cyril Ramaphosa has suspended an ally of his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, as head of the South Africa’s tax authority, accelerating a clear-out of critical institutions.
Mr Ramaphosa suspended Tom Moyane as commissioner of the South African Revenue Service (Sars) with immediate effect on Monday, a spokesperson for the president said.
Mr Moyane is closely tied to Mr Zuma, who was forced by the ruling African National Congress to step down last month under a cloud of corruption allegations in order to make way for Mr Ramaphosa.
Mr Moyane was accused by opposition parties and civil society of doing the bidding of the Guptas, a business family accused of using links with Mr Zuma to influence government.
They have since moved abroad following Mr Zuma’s departure from the presidency. Critics said he also failed to tackle a slide in tax collection that has exacerbated a 50bn rand ($4bn) hole in government finances as the economy slowed in recent years, and led a witch-hunt against internal opponents.
Mr Moyane denies all the claims. Reviving the institutional integrity of Sars, once regarded as one of the best tax agencies in Africa, is seen as crucial to Mr Ramaphosa’s promises to root out corruption from the ANC and government.
Last month Mr Ramaphosa also sacked allies of Mr Zuma from economically critical ministerial posts including the Treasury and oversight of state enterprises. The cabinet reshuffle included restoring Nhlanhla Nene, who was abruptly fired as finance minister by Mr Zuma in 2015.
But other supporters of the former president survived, with Mr Ramaphosa having to move carefully as ANC leader to bridge divisions in the former national liberation movement.
Mr Moyane’s suspension comes as Moody’s is due to decide on whether to cut South Africa’s last investment grade credit rating on Friday. S&P and Fitch Rating downgraded the country to junk status last year, citing concern over the decay of institutions under Mr Zuma and slow economic growth.