The official, a member of ZANU PF’s inner politburo cabinet, said Mugabe’s party was keen not to portray itself as weakened ahead of the December congress at which new leaders shall be elected.

Part of the strategy to show ZANU PF as a party that remains alive and strong included resisting all attempts by Tsvangirai’s MDC-T party to have the global political agreement (GPA) fully implemented, our source said.

The GPA or power-sharing agreement is the document that gave birth to Zimbabwe’s coalition government and implementing the agreement in full would dilute ZANU PF and Mugabe’s hold on power.

"It will be almost impossible to make any further concession for us before the people’s conference. That will be political suicide on our part as this would appear as if we would have lost ground and made concessions," said the ZANU PF official who spoke on condition he was not named.

The official said that Mugabe’s position will not be challenged at the elective congress but the ageing leader was eager not to appear to his supporters as if he was bowing to pressure from Tsvangirai.

He said: “If any concessions are made before the conference this would appear as if the party has lost steam . . . besides if that is to happen what will Mudhara (the old man or Mugabe) say at the conference as people will say he sold out."

ZANU PF spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira was not immediately available for comment on the matter.

But the disclosures by the ZANU PF politburo member dovetailed with observations by several political analysts who told ZimOnline earlier this week that Mugabe was unlikely to yield to pressure by MDC-T or by SADC to speed up implementation of the GPA before his party’s congress because doing so would undermine his stature before his followers.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC)’s organ on politics and defence last week gave Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara 30 days to resolve outstanding issues from the GPA.

The outstanding issues include Mugabe’s refusal to rescind his unilateral appointment of two of his top allies to head Zimbabwe’s central bank and the attorney general’s office.

Mugabe has also refused to swear in Tsvangirai ally Roy Bennett as deputy agriculture minister while the MDC-T is also unhappy by what it says is selective application of the law to target its activists and officials.

South African President Jacob Zuma who has taken over from his predecessor Thabo Mbeki as facilitator in the Zimbabwe dialogue is expected in Harare in about two weeks according to other sources to try to pressure Mugabe and his coalition partners to quicken implementation of the GPA.

But analysts said Mugabe was likely to only make token concessions because of the impending ZANU PF congress.

The politburo last August urged Mugabe not to make any further concessions to the MDC insisting that ZANU PF had met all its obligations under the GPA and that it was Tsvangirai’s party which had not fulfilled a promise to campaigning for lifting of Western sanctions imposed on Mugabe and his top allies. – ZimOnline