Northland-based Zimbabweans are "cautiously optimistic" the fall of Robert Mugabe could return the African country to democratic rule.

The Zimbabwean military has put Mugabe, his wife Grace, and key figures in his government under house arrest with speculation that former security chief Emmerson Mnangagwa would be appointed interim president.

Mnangagwa, who has been mapping out a post-Mugabe vision with the military and opposition for more than a year, was ousted as vice-president this month.

Northland dairy farmer advisor Tafi Majala said a change must come as his countrymen have suffered for too long under Mugabe.

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"Someone with a new or different perspective on governance is needed and I think the army wants a person like that. Mnangagwa is talking to the opposition party about a government of national unity and I think that's what the country needs."

Mr Manjala said it seemed speculation Mugabe's wife would take power and Mnangagwa's removal prompted the army to act.

His extended family, including his father, live in the Zimbabwean capital Harare and Mr Manjala said they cautiously hoped things would change for the better.

Whangarei telephone line technician Sam Muzambe said the appointment of a transitional government may help steer Zimbabwe towards democratic rule.

"There's a glimmer of hope I think. I spoke to my mum on Wednesday and she said everything is calm and people are going about their business but there's a sense of
optimism.

"I think a transitional government working together with the opposition may help the country go forward. The next few days would be interesting," he said.

Another Northlander from Zimbabwe, Paulette Scrooby, it was all a waiting game.

"I am feeling cautiously optimistic. If the vice president ends up being the interim president, hopefully democracy will follow through," she said.

Ms Scrooby participated in peaceful protests in Whangarei and in Auckland last year against Mugabe's 37-year rule.