Africa fought the good fight and won. It's an example of obsessive nit-picking to dwell on the definition of "won".

Africa fought the good fight and won. It's an example of obsessive nit-picking to dwell on the definition of "won".

We all won freedom, except for the people of the so-called Saharawi Republic, whose Polisario Front still has to achieve full nationhood since Algeria and Morocco are at loggerheads over the future of this former Spanish colony.

If you are one of those African cynics always casting a jaundiced eye on the benefits of our freedom, then you might insist these people should not be in a hurry to be free - not if they could end up like Sudan, the DRC, Somalia, Zimbabwe or any other African country where the ordinary people live on less than R7 a day.

This is the cynic's view. Noncynics would be aghast at the idea that celebrating Africa Freedom Day should be low key, particularly since the gem in the Independence Crown, South Africa, has demonstrated traces of the mindless human slaughter so pilloried by the rest of the world as patently African.

So far, more than 40 people, foreigners and South Africans, have been killed - some burnt to death - in an orgy related to xenophobia.

At the time of writing the government of President Thabo Mbeki had undertaken to end the slaughter. But some foreigners might not be alive to celebrate the day on which the Organisation of African Unity was founded on May 25 1963.

The reasons for this carnage have not been explicitly identified. One theory was that criminal gangs were behind the atrocities; another was that one ethnic group was responsible for the slaughter, its major design to destroy the government's reputation.

A third theory was that there were genuine grievances among the urban poor and that this explosion of xenophobic terror had been forecast for some time.

The poor were bound to vent their fury on someone and their unfortunate targets were the defenceless immigrants from Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique, accused of taking their jobs and their women.

So, in essence, Mbeki's government has been laggardly in implementing long-promised improvements to the lives of the urban poor.

In spite of its wealth, as displayed in the bustling First World metropolis of Johannesburg, South Africa has a sector so squalid and crime-infested it's as if it's on another planet.

The truth to confront is that this problem is not solely related to the influx of illegal immigrants.

The bigger picture encompasses Mbeki's sincerity in promising to tackle the legacy of apartheid.

The lives of the poor must undergo a visible and appreciable change for the better.

The government has the mandate to transform the economy, to let the whites know that apartheid is dead and buried. If there is a price to be paid it is to blast apartheid's legacy to smithereens, then everyone, including the whites, must bear their share of the burden without a gripe.