Such language illustrates a rift that appears to be growing, even as the ANC calls on business and labor to work with it to get South Africa's economy moving. Critics of the tolling project also have speculated that it will be open to abuse by corrupt officials, reflecting mistrust fanned by a series of recent government corruption scandals.
Neren Rau, chief executive officer of the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said his members concede tolls are an important way to raise funds for much-needed roads and road improvements, even though it has raised several concerns about the way the Johannesburg electronic tolling project would work. Rau does not expect the ANC to completely retreat.
"They can't really cave in," he said, "because that would send a poor message with regard to leadership in this country."
Already, international credit rating agencies have questioned the ANC's ability to resist popular pressure when making tough economic decisions. Standard & Poor's said in March it was revising its outlook for South Africa from stable to negative, saying that as the ANC prepares for 2014 elections, its "centrist wing may make gradual concessions to the more populist expectations from within and without the party."
Moody's expressed similar concerns and took a similar step late last year.
The changes could be a move toward downgrading debt ratings, which would make it more expensive for South Africa to borrow.
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