XR Mzansi a journey towards system change

Amanda Buhle Mbalo – XRMzansi

Let me introduce myself, I am Amanda Buhle Mbalo from Mdantsane, one of the Townships in East London in the Eastern Cape. 

For me this journey started with a call from a friend (who had mentored me in the Open Source software community) in January 2019 with an urgent warning message from scientists in the climate and biodiversity space. I was asked to help and started a journey into activism in the decentralised global Extinction Rebellion movement. 

“The South African chapter of XR was started in October 2018 and began with a strike outside parliament to protest about the seismic testing on the West Coast.XR Mzansi aims to create a movement reflective of South Africans’ struggles and sensibilities. We can’t shy away from the truth of why we find ourselves in this terrible circumstance, and the systematic scope of the problem. The minimum we aim for is the radical reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, coupled with support for the most vulnerable in society, the majority on the planet and in South Africa.”*

The message my friend spoke of was the warning from the proceedings from the National Academy of Sciences* about the risks of runaway global heating from tipping points in the Earth system. 

Before the COVID19 pandemic there were many meetings in Philippi where an office was established. We had media campaigns and I translated the demands into Xhosa and helped spread awareness about the ecological breakdown and climate collapse.

After the April rebellion in 2019 many activists felt that we should make a demand explicitly dealing with Climate Justice and our group XR Mzansi also debated and drafted reworded the UK demands to be better suited to the context in South Africa. The media did positively respond and one team actually won an international award for their piece featuring one of the XR Youth activists. *


Media and Government must tell the truth about what climate breakdown is and how it threatens human existence . They must respond to the ecological collapse. Government must reverse all policies not in alignment with healing the Earth’s Living Systems, the Media must work alongside them to communicate the changes.


Parliament must enact legally-binding policies to reduce carbon emissions in South Africa to net zero by 2025. Government must demand Climate Justice from industrialized countries and cooperate internationally to reach this target. Act immediately to mitigate the effects of the chaos, Remedy the Land to retain and capture carbon, implement sensible plans for a Post carbon economy.


Peoples Assemblies – Taking different Forms around the Earth based on the concept of a citizens sortition and participatory democracy. The free assembly of people to plan, budget, audit and co-ordinate – Making the DECISIONS WE HAVE TO, TO SURVIVE, regenerate and thrive.


Prioritize the MOST VULNERABLE, the Young, Sick, Disabled, Poor, Elderly and Marginalised, for years of injustice. Establish Reparations and Remediation led by and for Indigenous People. Assured Sovereignty-

Legal rights for ALL species, Ecosystems and the WHOLE BIOSPHERE.

Repair the total effects of ongoing Ecocide to prevent our extinction, creating a just and livable planet.”*

When we speak about the environment, and ecosystems what are we really speaking about? The life support systems of our planet and we need a healthy environment for our own survival. This is not a struggle we can win without solidarity from all over Earth and we hoped that our voices and the work we were doing to promote change and regenerative life affirming activities would be amplified by the global movement.

We felt very encouraged by the work done with respect to intersectionality and the direction Extinction Rebellion Global seemed to be going in with the Movement of Movements. This really reflected the vision we had for the campaign. 

Being in solidarity with indigenous people and prioritizing the most vulnerable is we believe a paradigm shift. Perhaps we all need to reflect and spend more time imagining the vision of what a future fit for generations to come might look like and how we might really get there. Supporting grassroots movements that stood in solidarity with us speaking truth to power as earth defenders during the time of Covid19 has been very important.

There have been real struggles on the ground affecting Rebels in XR Mzansi during this time. Hunger, sanitation, accomodation and other issues of survival have really been a burden on rebels in our group. Some have even become homeless and unable to access the internet regularly to participate in the global online rebellion. The Facebook pages which XRMzansi had were also recently removed in June 2020 and the links to the website for the group were removed from rebellion.global* just as we were about to launch our media campaign. The team here is in the process of rising from the wreckage with fresh and powerful young earth defenders at the forefront hoping for support from the global movement.

Giving people the tools they need to empower themselves is a way to mitigate for power which is one of the global movement’s guiding principles. Changing the narrative does mean changing the existing power structures and building the vision. We are nature defending itself. #RebelForLife




Author: theunderminer

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