In South Africa, we find ourselves in ideal territory for the politically correct to do battle. The moral ugliness of apartheid and the very real atrocities that accompanied it are such that a timorous critic of politically correct positions can be cowed into silence by the mere suggestion that their views represent a disguised defence of the old order and show an insensitivity to the plight of black people. The merits of the argument become less important than the suspected moral stance that is said to lurk behind it. White intellectuals are particularly susceptible to this kind of attack, since political correctness preys on white guilt.

Likewise, among their black counterparts, to go against the politically correct narrative - whether affirmative action, the national minimum wage or land expropriation without compensation - is to run the risk of being perceived as heretical, a traitor to the black cause. Yet many black South Africans have reservations about these policies.

Some have expressed concern about the unintended consequences of affirmative action on black self-esteem and self-reliance. I have explicitly, consistently and assertively made this argument, but in many cases, concerns such as these are expressed in a muted way.

BL Premium

This article is reserved for our subscribers.

A subscription helps you enjoy the best of our business content every day along with benefits such as exclusive Financial Times articles, Morningstar financial data, and digital access to the Sunday Times and Times Select.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Questions or problems? Email helpdesk@businesslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00.