Zimbabwe’s coalition government should bring to justice individuals responsible for recent and past episodes of political violence say analysts, rejecting attempts by President Robert Mugabe to forgive perpetrators of violence and move on.

Analysts told The Zimbabwean that government could help stabilize the country by bringing to justice the organizers of violence on all sides. Acting President John Nkomo told celebrations to mark ZANU PF politburo member and presidential affairs minister Didymus Mutasa’s 75th birthday in Rusape on Saturday that Zimbabweans should forget past political squabbles which led to bloody clashes.

Nkomo spoke hardly a week after Mugabe told Defence Forces Day celebrations that Zimbabwe should not seek to convict goon squads who took hundreds of lives in organized political violence sparked by ZANU PF’s devastating electoral loss in the 2008 presidential and general elections. Mugabe also suggested a blanket amnesty for security forces, who used excessive force in dealing with opposition supporters.

Admore Tshuma, a Zimbabwean journalist and political analyst, said by calling for amnesty for those guilty of political violence, Mugabe was subordinating justice to political self-interest, thereby shielding criminal elements who perpetrated violence on his behalf. “There can never be any reconciliation without accountability,” Tshuma said. “Amnesty is problematic because it promotes impunity.”

Researchers have documented serious abuses across the country, with ZANU PF militants and State actors attacking perceived MDC supporters when victory was announced for the MDC and Morgan Tsvangirai. MDC supporters later retaliated. Much of the violence was organized by local leaders and politicians from all sides, according to eyewitnesses.

Although many observers were surprised by the speed and scale of the recent violence, the underlying causes of the crisis are old and deep.

The failure to address systemic problems of governance and organized political violence was a direct cause of the recent crisis. And it dates back to the 80s. Nkomo said the squabbles between ZANU PF and ZAPU in the 80s “should be water under the bridge.”

“We need peace, unity and tranquillity to prevail so that we can move forward as a nation. If we say an eye for an eye, Zimbabwe will be blind,” Nkomo said.

But analysts urged the coalition government to support the various inquiries established under the February 2008 mediation process to investigate abuses by state forces and those responsible for the violence. How well these initiatives succeed will be central to the coalition government’s ability to improve the lives of Zimbabweans and stabilize the country.