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New Societies Act, 2022 of Botswana

By Tatenda Caroline Dumba

The National Assembly passed the Societies Act, 2022  to re-enact the 1972 Societies Act in order to incorporate the Financial Action Task Force Standards, particularly the recommendation to ensure that non-profit sectors are not abused for money laundering and terrorism financing.

All societies including churches and clubs have to re-register with the Registrar of Societies by 22 February 2023, failure which the relevant society or association will be de-registered in terms of the new Societies Act 2022. We however suspect that this deadline may be extended.

The new Societies Act 2022 requires that at least two thirds of the office bearers of an association, should reside in Botswana. In terms of the Societies (Amendment) Regulations, 2022 these office bearers should have security clearance reports from a law enforcement agent prior to being appointed as such. The office bearers could be members of the board, governing body or committee. In the case of churches, these could be deacons or elders.  

In the case of a religious society, the Societies (Amendment) Regulations, 2022 requires that the spiritual leader should hold a minimum qualification of an accredited certificate in Theology from an accredited institution accredited by the Botswana Qualifications Authority. This may be a deterrent on those who have a spiritual calling but cannot afford the means to obtain a Theology degree.

The new Societies Act 2022 has increased the number of members to 150 or more persons in order to constitute an association for religious purposes and 20 or more persons for any other society  primarily for raising or disbursing funds. The assumption of increasing membership numbers particularly with churches is to curb the increase of new churches that spring up with devious intentions and have unfit persons controlling such entities.

Holistically, the new Societies Act,2022 leans towards ensuring that members of an association have a vote in the affairs of the association and not be controlled by one divinity person. There is a positive side to this, however it is interesting to see how this would impact institutional structures of long existing ecclesiastical churches which have been predominantly controlled by foreign headquarters.