NGO structures – what legal options are available?
The South African constitution guarantees all South Africans the right to freedom of association. From a legal perspective, this means that South Africa has a legal framework which
- allows civil society organisations to establish themselves as legal structures, and
- regulates the way in which these legal structures operate.
In South Africa, civil society organisations largely operate as NGOs. These can be established in three forms, as a:
All three forms are recognised as distinct (separate) legal entities and guidelines for the establishment and regulation of NGOs are primarily legislated through the NPO Act. However, it is helpful to get expert (legal) advice before you make the decision on what type of organisation you wish to be, and before you start the process of actually establishing the organisation.
Another useful resource is Inyathelo’s non-profit clinic – ASK Inyathelo – which provides one-on-one mentorship, training and advice, with a specific focus on the sustainability and the advancement needs of non-profit organisations and higher education institutions. The ASK Inyathelo clinic, based in Cape Town, is a free service offered to South African non-profits.