Cardiff will allow long-serving Kevin McNaughton to leave this summer along with Danny Gabbidon and Nicky Maynard.
Highly-rated Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez has signed a new five-year contract.
Jans, who began his career as a player at Zwolle, is to take over from Art Langeler who is expected to take up a coaching role with Eredivisie rivals PSV Eindhoven next season.
Jans, who has signed a two-year contract with the club which begins on June 1, has been out of work since October after leaving Belgian club Standard Liege.
Jans began his professional career with his hometown club, playing 157 games for Zwolle and scoring 44 goals.
The striker also played for FC Groningen, Roda JC, SC Veendam and Japanese side Mazda Sport.
After ending his playing career, Jans moved into management, coaching SC Heerenveen, Groningen and Standard Liege.
Zwolle president Adriaan Visser told the club website: "After the announcement of the departure of Art Langeler, Ron Jans was soon top of the list to be head coach of PEC Zwolle.
"We regret that Art is leaving, but with we Ron found a worthy successor. As a club we want to take the next step, the next few years we want to sustain a mid-table position in the Eredivisie.
"Together with Ron Jans we think PEC Zwolle can reach the next stage of development."
Technical director Gerard Nijkamp added: "At the beginning of the search for a new coach, I immediately said Ron Jans was the ideal candidate to be head coach of PEC Zwolle.
"We get not only a quality trainer, but also a man with extensive experience at Eredivisie level."
Zwolle currently lie 13th in the Eredivisie table, four points above the relegation zone.