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How to register an NGO in Zimbabwe

There are three options available to register an NGO in Zimbabwe. A non-governmental organization is a non-profit and voluntary organization. Usually, it is organized by earnest people with a common interest on a local, national or international level. An NGO principally does charitable activities, thus, bringing concerns to governments, whilst also pushing for and monitoring policies. As a result, this encourages political participation through the distribution of factual information to all citizens. Below are stages on how to register an NGO in Zimbabwe:

1. Register your NGO: Choose from 3 options

In Zimbabwe, NGOs can only be instituted under three options. These are; registration under a trust deed, as a Private Voluntary Organization (PVO) and under common law universitas. These ensure that all NGOs operate under their lawful obligations.

a) Register an NGO as a Trust

Trusts are regulated under the Deeds Registries Act, which allows the Registrar of Deeds to register notarial deeds in donation or in trust. Trusts typically have unlimited objectives which are often intended to benefit an identifiable constituency.

•             A trust can be established for private benefit or for a charitable purpose. The trust deed will show whether a trust has been established for charitable purposes. A trust does not have separate legal personality, though it may enter into contracts in its own name if the trust deed so allows.

•             This form of registration requires the services of a registered Notary Public unlike with registering an NGO under the PVO Act. A Notary Public is required for the drafting and preparing of the trust deed and other necessary documentation. In addition, the Notary Public will register the deed with the Registrar of deeds in the Deeds office.

i) Requirements of registering a Trust

•             Trust name.

•             Trust objectives.

•             Trust general address.

•             Beneficiaries of the trust.

•             Details of between 1 to 4 founders (full names.i.d numbers and dates of births).

•             Details of at least 4 trustees (full names.i.d numbers and dates of births).

•             Registration fee.

•             Trustees must maintain up-to-date records of information relating to the identities and addresses of the parties to the trust, as well as information on every financial institution and every designated non-financial business or profession which is a service provider to the trust.

•             Trustees must notify the Registrar of Deeds of any changes to the particulars of directors or trustees, in writing within one month after the change has occurred.

ii) Disadvantages of a Trust

•             This form of registration is expensive because of the legal fees and costs required by the Notary Public to prepare the deed.

Do you need help registering a Trust?

b) Register an NGO as a Private Voluntary Organization

NGOs in Zimbabwe are mainly registered under the Private Voluntary Organization Act (PVO Act). Registration is done through the Department of Social Welfare under the Ministry of Public Service Labour and Social Welfare. Primarily, a PVO is defined as “anybody or association of persons, corporate or unincorporate, or any institution that seeks to promote the social welfare of people.

i) Functions of a PVO

•             The provision of all or any of the material, mental, physical or social needs of persons or families

•             The rendering of charity to persons or families in distress

•             The prevention of social distress or destitution of persons or families

•             The provision of assistance in, or promotion of, activities aimed at uplifting the standard of living of persons or families

•             The provision of funds for legal aid

•             The prevention of cruelty to, or the promotion of the welfare of, animals

•             Such other objects as may be prescribed

•             The collection of contributions for any of the foregoing.

ii) Requirements of registering a PVO

N.B Any organization that is seeking to carry out work as defined under section 2 of the PVO Act must be registered. Applications to the Registrar of PVOs can be lodged through the District and Provincial Labour and Social Services Offices. In terms of section 9 of the PVO Act, the Secretary of the organization needing to be registered under the Act should submit the following:

•             Registration form/Application for registration – The PVO registration form for NGOs may be purchased at the Ministry of Labour and Social Services Department in Harare or at the District/Provincial offices of the same ministry outside of Harare.

•             The name of NGO

•             The objectives of the NGO

•             The first members of the Executive Council or Executive Board (there should be between two and twenty persons as members).

•             CVs of key board members

•             Particulars of Directors and Secretary (which include their names; nationalities; usual residential addresses; business occupation)

•             Name and address of Auditor. (If you don’t have an Auditor the Registrar will provide you with one upon approval of your application)

•             Address and P. O. Box of registered office

•             An Interpol or local police clearance certificate for the country representative if it is a foreign NGO

•             Principal place of business

•             The organization’s constitution

•             Proof of public notice in national papers.

N.B. Such a notification is at the expense of the Applicant. The notice should state the proposed name of the private voluntary organization and the purpose, aim and mandate of the PVO. The notice should be published in a newspaper circulating in the area concerned.

iii) Registration procedure

•             Upon submission of the above documents any person may within the prescribed time period to lodge with the Registrar an objection to the grant of the application setting out the grounds on which such objection is made.

•             Public notice in newspapers – the aim of the newspaper notice is to call for persons with objections to lodge them with the Registrar of PVOs within the prescribed time limit (within 21 days of the date of publication).

•             The Registrar shall submit any such objection to the PVO Board for consideration.

•             If all documents are in order the Registrar will submit them to the PVO Board which will determine whether the application is rejected or accepted for registration.

•             The registration process can take 3 months to a year.

NB: Foreign organizations that seek to carry out work in Zimbabwe, and in particular work of a humanitarian nature or whose objectives are covered under the PVO Act, are required to register as such. Most international organizations operate as PVOs and are supposed to have a direct memorandum of understanding or cooperation with the Government.

iv) Disadvantages of a PVO

•             Too much government interference. If the Minister believes that a PVO has failed to comply with its objectives or constitution, has been subject to maladministration, or has engaged in illegal activities, or that “it is necessary or desirable to do so in the public interest,” or any other ground in terms of Section 21 of the Act, the Minister through notice in a government gazette may suspend all or any of the members of the Executive Committee of the PVO. The Minister may also amend or revoke any suspension.

•             The Minister is authorized in terms of section 20 to send inspectors at any time to examine the accounts and any documents of any PVO. Once a notice has been delivered to the PVO, the PVO is expected to comply by providing all required information. The documents that are effectively seized by virtue of the notice can be kept for a “reasonable period.

c) Register an NGO under Common Law Universitas

These are a product of the common law and are not regulated by statute. Basically, it exists when there is an entity which has a constitution and members that agree to achieve a common objective out of activities that are entirely for the benefit of its members.

In truth, this is the easiest way of forming an institution. It generally happens when two or three partners come together and make an understanding through an agreed constitution. Likewise, the constitution should have established objectives and strategies. In fact,  it is an easy option although few NGOs operate under this form of establishment.

•             A Common Law board can be viewed as a common law persona; this form was recognized by the Zimbabwean Supreme Court in Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. Next, such an entity is excluded from registering under the PVO Act and is therefore not viewed as a PVO. However, it is a legal corporate entity.

N.B: Although one is not officially registered, it is lawfully acceptable in Zimbabwe to operate under that body. For instance, the Catholic Commission for Peace and Justice has been operating without official registration.

2. Register with the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA)

Register with ZIMRA for purposes of paying (PAYE) employee tax on behalf of your employees.

3. Register with National Social Security Authority (NSSA)

NSSA registration allows the organisation to register it’s workers for social security including pensions and workers compensation insurance.

4. Register with National Employment Council (NEC)

NEC registration for improved work relations. There is an NEC for every industry, NGOs fall under the NEC for Welfare & Educational Institutions.


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