A person can change his or her forename or surname in Zimbabwe in accordance with the Births and Deaths Registration Act (Chapter 5:02) in particular section 18 of the said Act. The procedure for change of forename and for change of surname are slightly different.
If one wants to change his/her forename they may approach the Registrar-General and make an application for the registration of the change of forename in the register of births. Where the applicant is a minor the responsible parent or legal guardian must make the application. The Registrar-General will usually require evidence in support of the change. This may be in the form of affidavits or other evidence. In some instances the Registrar-General may require some persons to appear before him in person. There is therefore no requirement for a notarial deed of change of name where one only wants to change their forename.
The change of surname is done through a notarial deed of change of name. The person who wants to change their surname goes to a notary public who draws up a notarial deed of change of name based on the instructions given. The person appears and signs the deed in the presence of the notary public who will put his notary seal. A notice for the change of name is published/advertised once in the Government Gazette and in a daily newspaper. After the lapse of 14 days from the date of publication of the notice and if there are no objections the notarial deed of change of name is lodged together with the proof of publication at the Deeds Registry. If no queries are raised, the notarial deed of change of name will then be registered. The person will then apply to the Registrar-General for change of surname and submit the deed of change of name and advertisements. If the Registrar-General is satisfied, the change of name is effected.
Section 18(4) of the Act gives discretion to the Registrar-General to register a change of surname without a notarial deed of change of name if satisfied that the change of name is for a lawful purpose and is not for purposes of fraud or misrepresentation. This discretion can be used for example where a person has his direct grandfather’s name as his surname instead of the family surname used by the other family members. Unfortunately the Registrar-General rarely uses this discretion and invariably demands that anyone who wants to change their surname do so through a notarial deed of change of surname.
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