The Zimbabwean Alliance for Human Rights, a Glasgow-based group that raises awareness of Zimbabwean social and political issues, has agreed to stop calling itself a charity after an intervention from the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator.
The organisation is not on the register of charities, but its memorandum and articles of association refer to it as a charity. The OSCR has used its statutory powers to order the group to stop representing itself in this way. The regulator has warned that failing to comply with its instruction could lead to a £5,000 fine or six months’ imprisonment.
The OSCR’s report on the intervention says that because the company’s memorandum and articles of association are publicly available, the organisation "is being represented as being a charity when it is not entitled to do so".
It says the OSCR had also been told that Bekithemba Moyo, the company’s director, told police the company was a charity.
Moyo told Third Sector it was a mistake that the records referred to it as a charity. "I didn’t have any knowledge of how to register a company so I asked a friend to do it," he said. "We wanted to be a charity so we said in the Companies House document that we were a charity. We really didn’t see anything wrong with that."
He said he had removed the references to charity in the records filed with Companies House and had explained to the OSCR that the organisation had stopped calling itself a charity.
He said the group had also applied by post about nine months before to register with the OSCR, but had not heard anything back. "This letter about not calling ourselves a charity is all we have heard from them," he said.
Asked about the police’s role, Moyo said he was stopped by police on a ferry from Northern Ireland to England because he was carrying stolen cheque books. He said he had been visiting Northern Ireland to set up a new branch of his organisation to help reduce offending among Zimbabweans in the country, and had taken the cheque books from an individual while there to prevent them from being used for criminal means. He said he had intended to destroy the cheque books.
"I tried to explain to the police that I was in Northern Ireland to do charitable work," he said. "Maybe it was a misrepresentation of the word charity." Moyo said he was not arrested but he understood a police investigation was taking place.
In a statement, the OSCR said it had not received an application from the group for charitable status. "We are currently in dialogue with the organisation and have nothing further to say at this stage," the statement said.