Soldiers sit on a military vehicle parked on a street in Harare, Zimbabwe. Picture: AP

Johannesburg - The South African Security Workers union (Saswu) "cautiously welcomes the overthrow of the long serving totalitarian Robert Gabriel Mugabe who governed Zimbabwe with an iron fist for more than 37 years", the union said on Saturday.

"While [we] are opposed the undemocratic change of governments we believe there are exceptions to the rule and this is one such exception," Saswu president Xolile Mashukuca said.

Mugabe's government had "hopped from one crisis to another" since coming to power. While Zimbabwe had had one of Africa’s most efficient intelligence services, it was unclear whether the same intelligence service supported brutality against the civilians it was established to protect, he said. 

"Robert Mugabe’s government was responsible for Gukurahudi in which it’s estimated that between 20,000 and 30,000 civilians were brutally massacred by [the] Zimbabwe government in Matabeleland.

"This was followed by a chaotic land reform program wherein government abdicated her responsibility and allowed rogue elements to harass white farmers to institute what was falsely named land reform whilst it lacked [a] land and agrarian reform program, and the results were devastating hunger, unemployment, insecurity, and investor flight, leaving the country and citizenry in limbo and economic crisis," Mashukuca said.

"Recently, we’ve seen the emergence of hurricane Grace (reference to Grace Mugabe) that wreaked havoc in Zimbabwe, abusing her marriage to president Robert Mugabe to pave her way to the presidency and purge opponents with no program to improve the lives of Zimbabweans except for her and [her] son’s plunder of the resource together with the equally parasitic G40 group that supports her.

"With security defined as freedom from fear and anxiety, Zimbabweans haven’t experienced freedom despite the 1980 democratic breakthrough and the Lancaster House agreement

"We are equally not convinced that [former vice president] Emmerson Mnangangwa is any different from Robert Mugabe, given his history, but hope the mooted government of national unity is the best to allow a period of healing and stabilisation. We hope the transitional government will be given a longer period of between three to five years to build systems and restructure the electoral commission to ensure free, fair, and credible elections when these take place. 

"We call for a speedy return to civilian government in Zimbabwe under the government of national unity and a period of healing, return of exiles, and economic development and industrialisation," Mashukuca said.