A Power of Attorney is a written authorisation to represent or act on behalf of another in private affairs, business, financial or legal matters. There are a number of reasons why one may need someone to make decisions or act on behalf of them, for example when they are outside the country or when they are unable to perform the task on their own due to some incapacity – illness, imprisonment, etc. The person authorising another to act on their behalf is called the Principal Grantor and the one authorised to act is the Agent or Grantee.
A Power of Attorney deposed to in Zimbabwe must be signed before a Commissioner of Oaths, whilst one signed outside Zimbabwe must be signed before a Notary Public who affixes his or her notarial seal. There are two types of Powers of Attorney:
- General Power of Attorney
A General Power of Attorney allows the Agent or Grantee to do any and all things one could legally do. By signing a Power of Attorney the Principal does not only empower the Agent to act, but also indicates to third parties that he or she will be bound by acts performed by the Agent. A properly authorised Agent who validly enters into a contract on behalf of his Principal is therefore protected from any liability arising from that contract. A General Power of Attorney is wide and all-encompassing. It gives the Agent a vast amount of power to act on behalf of the Principal. However, the fact that a General Power of Attorney is broad may be dangerous for the Principal in that an Agent may enter into transactions not contemplated by the Principal which may leave the Principal liable and facing prosecution whether civil or criminal.
2. Special Power of Attorney
If a Principal wishes to limit the Agent’s authority to a specific, identified activity or transaction, a Special Power of Attorney must be used. An example would be when one instructs a Conveyancer to pass Transfer, to register a Mortgage Bond over an immovable property; appoints an Attorney to represent them in Court or give an Attorney power to sign documents on their behalf.
Generally, it is not advisable to make a Power of Attorney indefinite or permanent. A Power of Attorney whether General or Special should have a date for its expiration which date must be clearly stated in the authorising document.