South Africa’s weak economic growth and heightened political risk are a risk to its investment grade sovereign credit rating, the central bank said on Wednesday.
In its second and last financial stability review for 2016, the Reserve Bank also said thin liquidity was a recurring problem for the rand currency, and it would closely monitor conditions in the currency market.
Africa’s most industrialised economy is only expected to expand by 0.5 percent this year, down from a target of 0.9 percent the Treasury set in February.
The central bank also cut its own estimate to 0.4 percent in September, and kept interest rates on hold as a result, despite inflation pressures.
“The low economic growth is presenting headwinds to the domestic banking sector and has put the country’s sovereign credit rating at risk,” the bank said. “Key threats to the country’s sovereign rating also include heightened domestic risk.”
Ratings agencies, which are due to review South Africa’s rating before the end of the year, have warned of downgrades over the underperforming economy, and the political turmoil.
Moody’s rates South Africa two notches above subinvestment grade, with a negative outlook, while Fitch and S&P Global Ratings have it just a step above “junk”.
Investors have been jittery since President Jacob Zuma inexplicably changed finance ministers twice within a week in December, replacing the well-respected Nhlanhla Nene with an relatively unknown junior politician.
Zuma re-appointed Nene’s predecessor Pravin Gordhan to calm markets after a run on the rand and government bonds, but an ongoing police probe into Gordhan’s role in setting up a surveillance unit at the tax department, which police say spied on politicians, has hurt sentiment.
Gordhan, who denies any wrong doing, has called the investigation, as well as fraud charges, which were later dropped, politically motivated. Prosecutors have rejected the accusation.