Chimurenga II Chronicles: The intriguing story of Felix Rice Santana
Cde Chizengeni

Chimurenga II Chronicles: The intriguing story of Felix Rice Santana

LAST week, Cde Tobias Chizengeni, born 23 September 1943, whose Chimurenga name was Perkins Malan narrated how as youths they carried out sabotage activities in Rhodesia during the early 1960s. He narrated how the split of Zapu leading to the formation of Zanu almost degenerated into a civil war.

Cde Chizengeni
Cde Chizengeni

Cde Chizengeni continues his story this week with our Deputy Editor Munyaradzi Huni where he narrates the fights between Cde Willam Ndangana and Cde Felix Rice Santana. He tells an interesting story how Zimbabwe’s own James Bond, Cde Felix Rice Santana escaped from prison in Bindura and his tragic death in 1981. After the tragic death, Cde Chizengeni narrates the sad story how Cde Felix Rice Santana’s children ended up staying at a children’s home.
To get the full picture, Huni interviewed one of Cde Felix Rice Santana’s daughters, Shupayi who broke down in tears narrating the story of their life. Fortunately, their story has a happy ending that will inspire many. But Shupayi’s story is for next week. This week, Cde Chizengeni continues his gripping story as a Zanu youth. Read on …

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Cde Rice Santana
Cde Rice Santana

MH: Now, Cde Chizengeni after causing all sorts of problems to the colonial system in Rhodesia, how did you end up in Zambia?
Cde Chizengeni: I went to Zambia with Gatula in a truck that had been arranged by mdara Leopold Takawira. This was around December 1963, a few days before Christmas.
When we got to Lusaka, we went to the Zanu office. At that time there was no Zanu representative in Lusaka. There were members of the party who were Zimbabwean business people in Lusaka. People like mudhara Chadoka and Chakabva. These comrades arranged a house for us to stay.
As soon as we arrived in Lusaka, takabva tasangana nemaproblems aya ataifunga kuti tasiya kumusha. Zapu vs Zanu. The clashes. Even in Lusaka, Zapu people were saying Zanu should not exist. They were busy doing exactly what was happening in Highfield.
MH: What was the response from the Zambian government regarding these clashes?
Cde Chizengeni: Very bad response. The Zambian government was very biased towards Zapu. They preferred Zapu to Zanu.
MH: Why do you think the Zambian government supported Zapu and not Zanu?
Cde Chizengeni: It was a personal thing between Nkomo and Kaunda. Remember what I told you earlier on when I said they used to travel overseas for meetings together? They became very close. Kaunda by this time I don’t think he had had any opportunity to deal with these other leaders like Sithole and vaMugabe.
So we had serious problems in Zambia because of that. In fact by the time I left Zambia for Malawi ndakatoita zvekutotiza because Zambian police wanted to arrest me.
MH: We will come back to this part comrade when you depart Zambia for Malawi. For now can you narrate your story in Zambia?
Cde Chizengeni: I think two days or so after we arrived in Zambia. Felix also arrived. He had escaped from prison in Bindura and he was saying handisi kugara muno. He said he was proceeding to Congo. I think the party found some money for him and indeed he went off. Whether he went to Congo or not we don’t know. We remained in Zambia and it was in Zambia that I got the name Perkins Malan as disguise.
Felix said he was not staying in Zambia because the Rhodesians were following him. They could do this because although Federation had just ended, the systems were still intact. During Federation we could move from Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland without any document. No passport.
So the police could indeed follow him into Zambia. That’s why he could not stay in Zambia.
MH: Did he narrate to you how he had escaped from prison in Bindura?
Cde Chizengeni: Yes, he explained to us. You see when you were arrested in Rhodesia, the CID usually came in the night to do their interrogation. They would beat you thoroughly during this interrogation. They did this to Felix in Salisbury and that’s why Felix had to be transferred to Bindura. The CID had gone to interrogate him ivo vakadhakwa. So Felix was a trained karate person and I am not sure how many karate belts he had. So aikutyora mutsipa. (Laughs)
So he retaliated during the interrogation and that’s why they sent him to Bindura. Akavarova mabhunu aya and they said let’s transfer him.
So he said some three CID in Bindura were saying the CID in Salisbury were too soft on him. He said they were saying kuno we want to deal with you. Kuno tinorova.
So Felix says he actually told these CID guys kuti ahh don’t do that, but they ignored him. He says they would go and drink beer and during the night they would come to interrogate him vachimurova.
He said that’s what happened on the day he escaped. He said on this day two CID guys came and started beating him up during the night. He said ndakavaudza kuti if you continue doing what you are doing, don’t say I didn’t warn you. He said one of the CID guys actually removed his watch as the beating continued.
He said akavarova these guys and left them lifeless. After this he went out and disappeared into the night. He said he realised kuti akabva afamba achienda kuZambia, they would catch him because this was too obvious. He said instead he walked back to Salisbury.
Just like he had guessed, the CID and police mobilised and went hunting for him towards Zambia. They sealed the border while Felix was walking to Salisbury. He said he stayed in Salisbury, in Highfield for two weeks. When the situation had calmed down a bit, that’s when he left for Zambia.
He didn’t quite tell us how he crossed into Zambia but he came to Lusaka saying he was proceeding to Congo.
MH: This sounds like a movie, a James Bond movie. Can you briefly describe this Felix Rice Santana?
Cde Chizengeni: He was a tall chap. He had a very deceiving character. Very cool but explosive. As cool as a cucumber. Your temper would go up zvakadii, but Felix would be cool. He would remain quiet just starring at you.
I will tell you of an incident which happened in Malawi. I will narrate it in detail later so I will be brief for now.
You know of William Ndangana of the famous Crocodile Gang? Ndangana had been to Rhodesia were he had killed that whiteman in Melsetter and escaped to Zambia. Just like Felix, Ndangana could also not stay in Zambia so he came to Malawi.
Felix was also in Malawi after coming back from Congo. For some reason, Ndangana and Felix always challenged each other. Ndangana always felt challenged by Felix. So he always stayed with this big knife, a sword. You know mapanga ari kushandiswa neISIS these days, Ndangana had such a knife.
So Ndangana would start saying “futi iwe Felix hapana chawakaita. Urikuti wakatrainer, kutrainer chii chacho? Hapana wawaka uraya iwe.”
Felix would calmly say “what has that got to do with anything?” Vototanga a verbal warfare. But Ndangana was always the one aiva agitated. Felix had a pistol and Ndangana with his sword.
I happened to be the one with a long blanket saka tairara tese. There were not many people with blankets during this time. I was very proud of that blanket.
So both Ndangana and Felix were my friends. I would sleep in the centre but from their positions they would continue threatening each other.
Felix would say “Ndangana I think its better for you to go back and kill another white person before you come to me. Ndangana would go through the roof with anger. Quite often I would threaten them kuti ndokudzingai from my blanket.
These two were always like this but Felix would do everything ari cool while Ndangana would really be agitated.
MH: Quite interesting. Now let’s go back to Zambia after the arrival of Felix Rice Santana. What other political activities did you carry out?
Cde Chizengeni: When Felix arrived, he did not stay in Zambia. He proceeded to Congo. He stayed there for sometime and we remained in Lusaka. In Lusaka we spent most of our time reinforcing security yema members eZanu because there were constant attacks from Zapu people. The fact that the Zambian government was biased towards Zapu didn’t help matters. These clashes happened in all the major towns in Zambia where there were Zimbabwean people.
I was once sent to Brokenhill in Zambia where I stayed with Patrick Kombayi. Ini musoro wangu waipisa but waPatrick waipisisa. Zapu people knew kuti ukatanga Kombayi, you were inviting serious trouble.
MH: These activities in Zambia, who was coordinating them?
Cde Chizengeni: In Zambia by this time, the party now had some structures and the Zanu representative, Cde Stanley Parerewa had just been appointed. Each town had its local team representing the party. Most people who assisted Zanu were Zimbabweans working for Zambian Railways, and I think stories of the assistance that we got from these guys should be recorded. They played a major role during these early days.
MH: While talking to Cde Gatula, he told us the story where Cde Felix Rice Santana, Cde Parerewa and yourself went to Congo where Zanu got its first guns. Tell us a bit more about this.
Cde Chizengeni: I think many guys including Gatula got the impression that I went together with Cde Parerewa because I am the one who would drive Parerewa around often. I think there was even a suggestion that we were going together but on the day Parerewa left, I didn’t go with him. But indeed they went and brought the guns as you were told by Gatula.
I think somebody had phoned to say there was a problem in some area and the owner of the house a Zanu member was not around. So I had gone to this house to assist this family. Remember I told you of our clashes with Zapu. So I was told that I couldn’t go kurikuda kuendwa naParerewa. Ko munhu akazonzi afa unoti chii? So I didn’t go with Parerewa.
Some of the Zanu members we had to defend and protect in Zambia included people like Kombayi, mdara Chakabva, mdara Mushonga, mdara Chadoka, vana Matenga and others.
MH: Which Zanu leaders were in Zambia at this time?
Cde Chizengeni: At one point Reverend Sithole came and addressed a meeting in Kitwe. I think President Mugabe came through when he was coming back from Dar es Salam. Remember I told you kuti vakamboburitswa vese and they went to Tanzania. I think vaMugabe didn’t come back pamwe chete nevamwe so he passed through Zambia. This was still 1964.
During this time, Cde Tongogara was just an ordinary member of the party. He would once in a while stop by the office and take us for drinks. He didn’t have any position by this time.
MH: By this time, where there Zanu youths in Zambia who were saying they were ready to go for military training?
Cde Chizengeni: Yes, there were there. This is the time of the Crocodile Gang. I think they came from Ndola. Gatula ndiye akazoenda with this group I wasn’t part of it. He was the only one who had come from home (Rhodesia) among this group which later became the Crocodile Gang. The other comrades were youths in Ndola while Ndangana joined them in Lusaka. So yes, there were youths who were really ready to go for military training.
MH: Now, let’s go back to the story how you then left Zambia going to Malawi.
Cde Chizengeni: I told you about the incident where some of our youths had been arrested and we went to the police station and threatened the police. After this one of our Zanu members, a lady came and told us that we were in danger of being deported back to Rhodesia. She had heard the then Minister of Home Affairs in Zambia saying this.
That’s when we got money from Elias Rusike to leave for Malawi. Elias actually came where we were.
It was me, then Patrick Mandizha, Ernest Mapfumo, Emmanuel Masango, then Charles, I can’t remember his surname. He was a young chap by then. There was also Teddy Chirawu.
So we went to Malawi and there were no problems crossing into Malawi because like I told you there were no documents required. We could move between Malawi, Zimbabwe and Zambia freely due to the Federation.
We went straight to Blantyre. The party representative in Malawi was Mawere. He had a grocery shop in Blantyre. He found us a house to stay and everything that we needed he provided from his personal business.
Unlike in Zambia where there were many members of the party, in Malawi we didn’t know of any so we got all our assistance from Mawere. And for once the problems of clashes between Zanu and Zapu people, there were not there in Malawi. There was no big Zapu population in Malawi.
The other thing was that Kamuzu Banda supported Zanu. He supported Sithole. He actually donated one of the first vehicles to the party. Also when we got to Malawi, the Young Pioneers were very accommodative and sympathetic to us. Police from Rhodesia would try to track some of our members to Malawi but the Young Pioneers were very organised. Anybody who crossed into Malawi, the Young Pioneers would know. So they would tip us.
MH: Comrade if you continue talking about Young Pioneers without explaining some people may think this was some football team or something. What was this Young Pioneers?
Cde Chizengeni: In Malawi the party was Malawi Congress Party and its youth league was called Young Pioneers.
MH: Ok, you were telling us that in Malawi, the party representative would sometimes face problems with some of the comrades you were with. Tell us exactly what was happening?
Cde Chizengeni: When we were in Malawi, we had been told that the party had arranged that some of us should go for military training in Ghana and that in a couple of weeks a plane would be sent to pick up these comrades. So we knew that now we were about to go for military training.
Unfortunately that caused some of our guys to start behaving in a very irresponsible way. They started demanding things from Cde Mawere – things like mbanje, doro, fodya and so on. Yes, once in a while, when the representative had some money he would give us but this was not a right. If he didn’t have money, we were suppose to understand. But these comrades were now making demands kuti tipe chakati nechakati.
They were saying isusu now tavakuenda kuno trainer so that we go back home and die. So we deserve to be treated well and be given whatever we want.
I had a problem with that thinking. I told them you are not going to be trained to go and die. You are being trained to go and fight. They insisted that isu tava kunofira nyika so we should have preferential treatment.
MH: By this time, had you received any political orientation to understand what war is all about?
Cde Chizengeni: Not at all. That was a major weakness in the organisation. We stayed all this time with no political orientation at all.
So I would tell these other comrades kuti this is voluntary kuuya to serve Zanu so don’t expect to be paid or to get special treatment.
MH: You earlier on narrated an incident that happened when Felix Rice Santana later followed to Malawi?
Cde Chizengeni: Yes, he later followed. Felix came back from Congo and he also couldn’t stay in Zambia as the Rhodesian Special Branch was still looking for him. So he came to Malawi. That was the same with Ndangana. He later came to Malawi. So there was a time when we were together in Malawi and like I said there was bad blood between Santana and Ndangana. Luckily both would listen to me ndikati vakomana siyanai nezvamuri kuita.
So regarding the incident you are referring to, I can’t remember the precise circumstances but it was to do with the behaviour of these comrades. I think there were six or seven comrades vaidziya musoro. Vainetsa kana vakadhakwa and mostly it was mbanje.
So sometimes you would want to talk about some serious issue, they would say kurumidzai isu tirikuda kuenda. So one of these comrades said this standing right in front of Felix. Felix just grabbed this chap and threw him into a pit that Cde Mawere had dug so that he could put a fuel tank.
Cde Mawere wanted to put a service station ipapo so panga pakacherwa. Felix grabbed this guy and threw him in there. Then he said ‘ndipei foshoro tifutsire arimo. He is useless.’ So I said no, no, no Felix siyana naye.
MH: So this Felix could swing from this cool guy to the other extreme?
Cde Chizengeni: Yea, that was Felix. Akanga asinga popotedzani nemunhu. He would say things ari very cool. A very deceiving guy.
Felix later left Malawi and he left in dramatic fashion as usual. You see in Malawi, Felix would go the whole day I don’t know where exactly. He would come back around 8pm.
On this day, he came to me around past 8pm and said to me nhasi usarare mumba. He said ini ndava kuenda. I said kuenda kupi? He said he was going to Dar es Salam. I laughed saying its 8pm and you are talking of going to Dar es Salam? I knew there was no bus that could go to Dar es Salam that time. He said don’t worry I know how to go about it.
But he insisted kuti nhasi usarare mumba. I asked why but he refused to explain. I said ok. Felix went to Mawere and said he was going to Dar es Salam. Mawere was also surprised, but Felix insisted that he was leaving. Mawere then gave him some money. He gave him some packets of biscuits, cigarettes and drinks. Felix just took the packets of cigarettes and left.
I didn’t take serious what he had told me not to sleep inside the house. Around 2am, Malawian police came and we were all arrested. We were taken to the police station.
The police were saying munhu wavari kuda its Felix and they were saying inini ndini Felix. I said, no I am not Felix. They insisted that I was Felix so ndakarara ndakasungirirwa makumbo nemaoko. Later, one of the officers came and said no, this is not Felix.
What was the problem? The problem was that during the time of Federation, Felix had been going kumatowns ese under Federation including Joburg. Pane zvaaiita zvaikonzera kuti mapurisa aite record yake. So when they heard that he was in Blantyre, he had previous cases, that’s why they were now looking for him.
So when the police discovered that I was not Felix we were then released. Felix akanga atorova pasi. We didn’t even know kuti afamba sei. I never even asked him kuti wakafamba sei but he went to Dar es Salam.
We remained behind but the demands by these fellow comrades continued. Mdara Mawere was really constrained because the party was not sending him any money.
The trouble makers among the group were Patrick Mandizha, Ernest Mapfumo and Emmanuel Masango. I think there was also Charles Chawanda. Ndiye akakandwa mugomba naFelix.
The problems continued and I tried my best kudzora these guys but they could just not listen. They were saying they were entitled to be treated well because they were going to die for the country. I said nobody is entitled to anything.
By this time, Ndangana and Felix are already gone. So one day I went to sleep and while asleep, one of the chaps came with a knife and stabbed me. I am not sure who exactly but bang banga rapinda kumusana (showing the visible wound). At first I felt numb. The other guys in the house said ahh, wachekwa.
I was later taken to hospital. I think the hospital made a mistake because they just cleaned the wound vachibva vasona the wound.
Afterwards, the doctor discovered that the knife had gone deep down near my chest cavity very close kuburi rinogara malungs. So I had blood which went to the lungs and clotted. This caused me serious breathing problems so I had to be operated.
After this operation, I had to stay in hospital and that plane came and took these other comrades leaving me. These comrades went to Ghana for military training. I never saw these comrades again.
I think one of the guys at the Chinhoyi battle was Patrick Mandizha. That’s the same guy I was with in Malawi. After the battle some comrades were saying what did you expect from Patrick, imbanje yega yega.
It took years for me to fully recover. That meant that I couldn’t go for military training. All my hopes of going for military were dashed.
MH: So from Malawi where did you go?
Cde Chizengeni: I went to Dar es Salam. The Zanu representative at that time was called Pasipanodya. I started working in the Zanu office. The clashes between Zapu and Zanu re-appeared in Dar es Salam again.
Later I think around 1966, I went to work in the Zanu office in Egypt, Cairo where the party representative was Cde Mombeshora. Around November 1966, Frank Ziyambi, the Zanu representative in London facilitated that I go to London where I attained a degree in economics. After Britain I went to America where I stayed until 1978.
When I came back to Rhodesia in 1978, I continued politics under Zanu but not that actively involved.
MH: Now, Comrade, with the way you entered into politics, the struggles you went through, some people would say your decision to go to school and not continue serving the party was like running away from the struggle. What do you say?
Cde Chizengeni: That won’t be fair to say. When I got injured I was told by doctors that I couldn’t do strenuous work and that meant I couldn’t go for military training. So what was I supposed to do?
MH: But you could have continued serving the party working in the different offices as you were doing?
Cde Chizengeni: My going to school also later helped the party and the new Government. After independence, the Government asked me to come and assist in the setting up of the Minerals Marketing Corporation as I was the only black person with the experience to sell metals.
MH: The story of Felix Rice Santana – did you ever see him again after the liberation struggle?
Cde Chizengeni: I saw Felix the day he died I think. That was in 1981. When I came back from America, Felix was already here. He had moved back from Zambia. He was now staying in Harare with his family.
I don’t know exactly what happened but he was no longer involved in politics. You know when we came back after all these years apart, we didn’t dwell much on politics. We now had families and several commitments. He did not even express any bitterness about anything.
The day he died, we met I can’t really remember the place. We spoke about meeting the next week or something to that effect. He then went his way and I went my way. That was it.
The next day, I heard that he had died in a car accident in Glen Norah. They said aka pinda mumain road. That road from Glen Norah A into High Glen road. They say ipapo ndipo paakasvikopinda ipapo.
We were very close and that’s why right now Felix children regard me as their uncle. When Felix died in the car accident he died together with his wife. So when they died, there was no one mukuru except I think Felix’s sister to look after the children. Felix had six children. One of them was already grown up because he had this child in the early 1960s. When they died, I think their youngest child was around six years.
MH: You said recently these children came together for the unveiling of the tombstones of their parents. Why after all these years?
Cde Chizengeni: The unveiling of the tombstones was on 27 December 2015. I said he died in 1981 when his children were very young. Unfortunately he didn’t have close relations back home in Zimbabwe. Zvekuti vana vaFelix ended up vakuchengetwa kuchildren’s home because there was no close relative atora vana. So because of that there was no one to do the unveiling of the tombstones. Now the children are grown up, that’s when they decided to do it for their parents. Felix Rice Santana and his wife were buried at Warren Hills in Harare.

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