I have received numerous questions on the subject of registering charity organizations in Zimbabwe. As a founding member and board trustee of Zimbabwe Bright Futures Syndicate. This is a charity organization which Blessing Mutamba (Miss Ireland International 2019), I and a couple of individuals formally registered towards the end of 2020. There is definitely an ever-growing interest in Zimbabweans (local and abroad) wanting to establish charity organizations here. In this article, I will explore and assess the registration options available to you. Consequently, I will give you some recommendations along with other related vital information.
Basic Terminology And Importance
By ‘charity organization’ I am referring to what you can at times hear being termed non-governmental organization (NGO), non-profit organization (NPO), or private voluntary organization (PVO). These interchangeable terms refer to an organization, independent of the respective government that aims to further humanitarian causes. The overall importance of charity organizations is that they assist governments or fill humanitarian voids that the government could be failing to fill. Thus they are pivotal to national development through the provision of basic human needs.
The first option to consider when contemplating registering a charity organization is this one. Essentially with this option, you do not register the charity organization in any way. This means you get to operate your charity organization based on custom and judicial precedents rather than statutes. Championing and pushing humanitarian causes that better livelihoods is widely acceptable in any society. Broadly this suggests that a charity organization, in its purest form, is legally allowed to operate in Zimbabwe. In Zimbabwe, you will discover that most faith-based organizations (e.g. churches) have fully functional charity organizations that never had to be registered. Operating under Common Law Veritas is the most hassle-free route to take because of the lack of registration.
This does not mean you must not have a structure for your charity organization. You must have a constitution and must actually have documentation for your activities. This is vital for accountability purposes if authorities or donor partners need to ascertain some things. One of the downsides of this is that opening a bank account might not be possible with some banks. This is because most banks would require an operating license or a trust deed as one of their requirements. Basically, if your charity organization is relatively small you can operate without any issues under Common Law Veritas.
Private Voluntary Organization (PVO)
Registering as a PVO implies that you will have to register under the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare. Most NGOs or charity organizations in Zimbabwe use this route – especially if the mastermind(s) is or are based outside Zimbabwe. Basically, if the organization is international, as in, in the sense that the people behind it are not based in Zimbabwe it is usually inevitable to register as a PVO. The requirements for registering as a PVO are many and not easy to put together. You can get the PVO Act here.
There are at least 14 requirements some of which are an Interpol clearance or police clearance, public notice in national newspapers, and proof of having notified local authorities. Over and above that it can take up to a year, even more, to get registered. I detailed that in an article I did some time back, kindly check it out here. There are other possible hurdles with this route too since there are too many bureaucracies involved. I will not detail that lest I sound too political but I am sure you get the idea.
Then we have this one as your third option. This option is one we can deem as an alternative to registering as a PVO. It is apparent that registering as a PVO is not a stroll in the park. Thus a less demanding option would be registering as a trust. This is all legally backed by the Deeds Registries Act. The beautiful thing about this option is that all you need to do is to find a Notary Public. He or she is the one who will explain to you what is required and will be the one who goes to the Deeds office to file the registration for you.
You are probably wondering who a Notary Public is, right? Well, it sort of differs from country to country but in Zimbabwe a Notary Public someone who is registered in terms of the Legal Practitioners Act [Chapter 27:07]. He or she has the authority to draft and or attest contracts or documents. Just to clear something here, just because someone is a lawyer does not automatically make them a Notary Public. However, a Notary Public must be a lawyer; so do not confuse those two dynamics. When you want to use this registration option, look for a Notary Public, not just a lawyer in general. Of course, you would have to pay for their services.
When we registered Zimbabwe Bright Futures Syndicate this was the option we chose. Your organization’s constitution would be needed, plus names, physical addresses, and copies of IDs, and signatures of the board trustees. The whole process only took a few days due to lockdown restrictions and the fact that the trustees are in different geographical locations.
Based upon not only my experience but also objective analysis of the available options, the Trust Deed route is the best. What I can advise you to do is that you can start off operating under Common Law Veritas. Actually, as Zimbabwe Bright Futures Syndicate, we did many humanitarian activities last year before registering. So in due course, you can register to get your Trust Deed – that way you will be well-equipped to face any eventualities along the way.
Hopefully, this article has been useful and will clear your path in establishing your own charity organization. It is always more blessed to give than receive so it is a worthwhile venture.