FORMER United States president Lyndon Johnson, who reportedly had a difficult relationship with the head of the Federal agency that preceded what is nowadays known as the Federal Bureau of Investigations, is widely credited as having found a philosophy to deal with a vexatious subordinate.
“It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in,” Johnson concluded in a legendary remark that is said to have been first recorded by The New York Times of October 31, 1971.
The rationale was simple enough. A terrible or annoying person is better on your side and giving trouble to others.
It works, perhaps to a certain extent and reach.
Think of the former Zanu-PF member and Higher Education Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo.
He is a garrulous, narcissistic and on the main a difficult character to deal with, a trait that he even admits himself, reflecting that a lecturer of his once tried to disabuse of the noxious character traits.
He is a guy that you would want to be on your side all the time and not cross paths with because of his disturbing streak for personal and corrosive arguments, with some people calling him too vindictive.
He has been in and out of the ruling Zanu-PF party and Government: the first big role being a liberation-fighter-cum-deserter (well at least according to the generalised version) who goes on to become a fiercely anti-establishment (Zanu-PF) critic, to be the spokesperson of a Government-initiated constitution-making commission, to Government spokesperson and a minister to rebel and back.
Now, again he is out there in the cold — away from the party and Government.
And away, most probably, from the country, having sought sanctuary in some African country — some say Kenya — following events of the past few days as the army moved in to restore order in the revolutionary party.
The world is now familiar with that particular episode of our history, the history that we made and the history that saw Robert Mugabe step down as the leader of Zimbabwe after 37 years at the helm.
Typically, Moyo was true to form during his last days in the ruling party, peeing all over and targeting the person of the new President of the party and Republic, Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Moyo did that excitedly and arrogantly, declaring that he would never support a Mnangagwa presidency — which would be fine as it is his democratic right to do so — but peppering that with acerbic, demeaning personal assertions like he did when he sought to dismiss reports that the then VP had been poisoned.
The party leader — former President Mugabe — always warned against the use of social media and the “opposition” press in internal Zanu-PF issues.
However, Moyo happily tweeted his defiance away, sometimes — we can imagine — from the very same Politburo chambers that his boss had made the entreaty.
It is a matter warranting an investigation of its own how the former president allowed Moyo, aka Jonso, to openly defy him and his instruction and whether he gave a tacit approval of Moyo’s thickheadness, in a messy power play that served the principal.
We had all thought that when, during that funeral of Nathan Shamuyarira, Cde Mugabe railed against weevils in the party, he was going to deal decisively with the divisive Moyo — as indeed he soon stripped him of the reins as the Information Minister.
However, we know that Moyo was spared and those like Mutasa, ironically, who had called for the “Gamatox” treatment of the said weevils, actually became the enemy.
Did Cde Mugabe think it was better to have Jonso peeing outside — which he did turning to President Mnangagwa as soon as early 2015 — than being on the outside peeing in: meaning that if Cde Mugabe had acted on the “weevil” Moyo, he could have had a devastating effect on Cde Mugabe himself?
Or, as suggested before, did Moyo’s piss-and-diss become useful to Cde Mugabe in dealing with the perceived threat from President Mnangagwa, then his No. 2?
He’s out, let him be!
And the events of the past few weeks have consigned Moyo outside the Zanu-PF tent along with Cde Mugabe and the whole G40 cabal.
He was quiet for a couple of days after the events of the night of November 14 when the Zimbabwe Defence Forces moved in under Operation Restore Legacy, which was later to clean out the likes of Saviour Kasukuwere, Patrick Zhuwao and Grace Mugabe.
Now he is back on his favourite hunting ground and has been ranting about the new order on Twitter — even asserting that the whole new set-up would not last.
Otherwise, over the past few days Moyo has gone overboard — perhaps tweeting from the safety of Kenya, as some have suggested, and attacking the new dispensation without restraint.
He has been making scurrilous attacks all round, quite unprintable and better left in the garbage can.
That’s all typical.
Good thing is that these kind of disrespectful and self-seeking rants are not going to have the same divisive and disruptive effect as when he was in Government.
Yes, he is like that barking dog.
Things have changed altogether.
The new Government led by President Mnangagwa looks all ready to work and the President himself appears to do the business unusual as far as arresting the decadent culture that had taken root during the tenure of his predecessor: tackling corruption, calling out bureaucratic tardiness, reform, smart foreign policy moves, etc.
Admittedly, many people expressed surprise, if not disappointment, over his inclusion of certain figures in his Cabinet.
The nation may have been too sensitive, but then, the taste of the pudding is in the eating.
A little misunderstanding
We need to situate part of the “disappointment” with the new Cabinet correctly — apart from the genuine concerns on the lack of gender balance, lack of youth representation and the “recycling of old faces”.
These are legitimate issues that must be seriously looked into — and we are mentioning them in the spirit of constructive discourse as media, which is our role.
Much of the chagrin, though, stems from the fact that some people among us thought that this was time for another “inclusive Government” that would incorporate the opposition in its broad sense.
There was a feeling that the departure of Cde Mugabe should “unite” the people.
While this is in good faith, the problem is that it is too simplistic a position, which fails to account for the fact that the whole thing was Zanu-PF — which has always had military and political leadership co-existing and not exactly sharing leadership spoils equally — was the party self-correcting and renewing its leadership by way of recalling an errant cadre and a cabal and replacing them with newer and more focused faces.
It was not a revolution.
Nor was it a subversion of a constitutional order, which is why our unique-coup-that-was-no-coup has become a global marvel.
The good thing though is, good times are promising to roll, and it will be for the national good.