Harare – UNIC Harare, the Ministry of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs, Ministry of Media, Information and Publicity, Zimbabwe Youth Council, (the umbrella body for out-of-school youth organizations), Zimbabwe United Nations Association (ZUNA) representing in-school youth, students and various organizations came together on 24 March, 2010 to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination at Prince Edward High School in Harare.
In order to make the commemoration locally-relevant, the organizing Committee agreed to contextualize it within the Constitution-making process currently underway in Zimbabwe. As such, a debate involving in-school and out of school youth was held and the topic under discussion was: Is There Room for Race in the new Constitution of Zimbabwe.”
Two students presented their arguments against the inclusion of race in the constitution while the other two supported the inclusion of race in the Constitution. The debate was extremely lively and involved black, coloured and Asian students. The invited guests represented people of various races.
At the end of the presentations, the participating audience was given an opportunity to air their opinions in a plenary discussion.
The event was attended by over 350 students and representatives of various organizations, diplomatic missions and individuals.
The Guest of Honour at this event was the Honorable Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs. UNIC Harare Officer in charge Tafadzwa Mumba read the statement of the UN Secretary General to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Poems on racism were also recited by two students.
The following were some of the issues raised;
- It is not necessary to highlight race separately in the Constitution because there is racial harmony in the country;
- Zimbabweans are peace loving and are willing to accommodate all races. As such there is no need to highlight the issue of race separately in the new Constitution;
- The right to choose where to live is a fundamental human right for all citizens of Zimbabwe regardless of their race. As such, all races should be accorded equal rights in the new Constitution of Zimbabwe;
- Zimbabwe is for black Zimbabweans and not for other races. As such, there is no need to give non-black Zimbabweans the rights of black Zimbabweans.
Overall, the event was well attended and the participation level by the youth was very high. This demonstrated the need by the youth to have forums where they can air their views on events and processes that affect them and that may be taking place in the country.
The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is a Day observed annually on 21 March. On that day in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpville, South Africa, against the apartheid pass laws. Proclaiming the Day in 1966, the United Nations General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.
The United Nations has been concerned with the issue of racial discrimination since its foundation and the prohibition of racial discrimination is enshrined in all core international human rights instruments. The United Nations places obligations on States and tasks them with eradicating discrimination in the public and private spheres.