Zimbabwean expats celebrate the end of Mugabe

Expat Zimbabweans living in New Zealand have little love for Robert Mugabe, the president who appears to have been ousted in a military coup.

Wellington resident Ben Paradza was forced to flee his home country when, as a judge, he acquitted an opposition politician.

"For Zimbabweans, any change is good," he says.

Many of the more than a thousand Zimbabweans currently living here were forced into exile by a corrupt regime.

"They were really running the country like a mafia," says Mr Paradza. "They were corrupt, they were just bad guys."

Thirty-seven years ago, Mr Mugabe fought for freedom from White Rhodesia, but things turned ugly soon after he won. The dictator ruthlessly exterminated his enemies without regret.

Mr Mugabe blamed the former colonialists for Zimbabwe's troubles. White farmers were forced from their land, including Carolyn and Peter Beamish. 

"We were being ganged at the gates with noise and threatening to kill Peter all the time, so it just wasn't worth the threat," says Mrs Beamish. "Maybe we might survive, maybe we wouldn't. 

"So we said no. We picked up our children, all three of them, and moved to New Zealand."

Mr Beamish lost two brothers fighting Mr Mugabe, whom his wife says is "evil".

"Whether the next one who comes is just as bad is another story," she says.

Despite the end of the Mugabe reign looking likely, Zimbabwe's future looks bleak, says Mr Beamish. 

"Is there any hope? I seriously don't think so, until democratic elections take place and I can't see that any time soon either."

The Beamishes have put down roots in Matakana, but Mr Paradza still wants to return to Zimbabwe - a day he hopes will come sooner, now that Mr Mugabe's grip on power has loosened. 

"It leaves me hope I might go back home."

What state his home country might be in when he returns is still unclear.