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Moody's warns South Africa on 'unsecured' lenders

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A sign in Rustenburg last September reads 12,500 rand, the wage sought by Amplats miners. Moody's rating agency on Monday warned South African banks and other lenders which issue loans without collateral face a bumpy time ahead as the economy wobbles and labour unrest continues. (AFP/File)

Moody's rating agency on Monday warned South African banks and other lenders which issue loans without collateral face a bumpy time ahead as the economy wobbles and labour unrest continues.

Moody's warned that unsecured lenders -- which are dominant in mining communities -- would be particularly badly hit over the next 12-18 months.

"We expect higher delinquencies from employees in the gold and platinum mining sector, and the agricultural sector, which have been hardest hit by labour unrest and strikes," Moody's said in a statement.

The mining sector in particular faces the prospect of large scale layoffs which could cripple workers' ability to repay loans.

Unsecured finance to workers in these sectors account for as much as seven percent of all loans in the country.

The role of payday and other unsecured lenders was recently exposed amid recent violent mining unrest, with miners' demands for massive pay increases in part fuelled by the need to repay exorbitant loan interest.

The government had vowed to clamp down on such lenders, after a boom fuelled by low interest rates and a rise in nominal wages.

According to official March statistics 16.6 percent of unsecured loans are non-performing, versus 14.2 percent in the same month a year before.