IF it is to be assumed that laws requiring national demographic ratios to be reflected in all societal activity are morally defensible and can be applied universally then it can be argued that Nazism in Germany, segregation in the US, Stalinist repression in Russia and apartheid in South Africa were also morally defensible.

One way or another all these evil systems were based on race and racial classification. If, to be recognised as a free and democratic nation, it is required that citizens are all treated equally before the law without regard to race, then South Africa is not a free and democratic state.

To dictate strict ratios in the racial make-up of, for example, prison warders, is nothing more than heinous social engineering. After prison warders, shall we move on to medical doctors, attorneys and advocates, airline pilots, quantity surveyors, engineers, actuaries and so on and on?

President Jacob Zuma, addressing a Freedom Day rally, said: “We achieved the elimination of apartheid colonialism and institutionalised racism and replaced it with a new society founded on human rights, equality, justice, dignity and stability.”

But surely imposing racial quotas is nothing more nor less than what Mr Zuma calls “institutionalised racism”.

In fact, demanding by law that individuals classify themselves racially is clearly the institutionalism of a racist code. Perhaps we should all simply reply: “Human.”

Our BEE legislation has not uplifted the poor but has obscenely enriched a chosen few who have amassed fortunes at a pace rivalled only by the overnight emergence of Russia’s oligarchs, beneficiaries of state corruption and patronage.

In the sad matter of the divorce of Tokyo and Judy Sexwale, we learned in these pages that he is worth almost R2bn and probably a lot more. He is a clever and capable man, but without BEE it is unlikely he would so rapidly have been possessed of amounts that usually take generations to build.

As an aside, one wonders how the Sexwale children will be racially classified and if it will be their choice. Will they be white, like their mother, or black, like their father? Or something else? Why do we impose such cruel dilemmas on the innocent?

Is Barack Obama, in South Africa terms, black, white or coloured? And what are his kids? Aren’t we all just humans?

Apartheid’s evils demanded reparation. But not only for the chosen few, surely? And today while we see black billionaires flitting about in Bentleys, township and rural kids have no textbooks, live and try to learn in shacks and have no decent lavatories; many of their teachers neglect them while they are daily exposed to the dangers of rape and abuse.

Our ruling party points with pride to the 20-million now on welfare rolls when what they should be doing is helping them escape dependency on the state and rather enjoy the dignity of self-supporting work. But the ANC cynically wants them to believe it is the party that provides their handouts rather than the taxpayers.

Meanwhile, the Zuma family rides on the back of BEE in a variety of ventures from mining to commercial airlines, meeting probably at the Nkandla spread paid for with R200m-plus of taxpayers’ money.

It enraged Adolf Hitler that, although Jews made up 1% of Germany’s population, they dominated many aspects of it, particularly in commerce, the professions, the arts, literature, science and so on.

Modern retailing had its birth in Germany through Jewish endeavour. German Jews won a slew of Nobel Prizes and many fought valiantly in the kaiser’s war of 1914-18. They created great commercial and industrial empires.

But they were rendered victims of quotas and dispossession and much worse.

This is not to suggest that South Africa would treat minorities as Hitler did. It is, however, to suggest that racial quotas are a dangerous tool with which to try to shape society. It can have disastrous results that were never their intention. It’s known as the law of unintended consequences.

• This article was first published in Sunday Times: Business Times