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North Korea and Japan celebrate the New Year
31 December 2019, 5:29 PM

North Korea and Japan are among the latest countries to welcome in the New Year. In Pyongyang, people waved illuminated wands in Kim Il Sung Square as red fireworks burst into the night sky.

To the south, Japan also welcomed in the New Year. Some rang bells at temples to celebrate the start of 2020.

In Australia, Sydney harbour was again flooded with colour as fireworks detonated over the city.

However, many other towns celebrated the New Year without fireworks displays as fire-fighters continued to battle mega fires that have been fuelled by hot conditions and dry vegetation? The hot conditions have been linked to climate change.

The Pacific islands welcome the new year
31 December 2019, 5:11 PM

The Pacific islands of Tonga, Samoa and Kiribati are among the first nations to have welcomed in 2020.

Many of the islanders have expressed the hope that the world reverses course in 2020 and embraces cleaner energy while at the same time committing to removing carbon from the atmosphere.

The islands are bearing the brunt of rising seas caused by climate change.

New Zealand has also welcomed in 2020.

In Auckland, the iconic Sky Tower was bathed in technicolor light as the fireworks display was accompanied by laser lights and animations.

It’s the first time lasers have been used in Auckland to accompany the traditional fireworks display.

Australians the countries in welcoming in the new year. They marked the arrival of 2020 with yet another spectacular fireworks display over Sydney Harbour, despite deadly wildfires which have forced thousands to seek refuge on beaches and compelled many towns to call off their celebrations.

Hong Kong also cancelled its popular New Year’s Eve fireworks in Victoria Harbour due to security concerns as pro-democracy protesters formed giant human chains and marched through shopping malls.

Transgender Germans demand compensation for sterilisation
31 December 2019, 4:37 PM

When German authorities insisted Tsepo Bollwinkel get sterilised in order to be legally considered a man 25 years ago, he was “eager to follow the rules, even if they sounded insane”.

Now Bollwinkel, a 58-year-old empowerment coach, wants compensation for himself and potentially thousands of other trans people who underwent mandatory sterilisation to change their sex on identity documents before legal reform in 2011.

Back in 1994, “I felt grateful for that opportunity because it was important for me to get legal recognition,” said Bollwinkel, who is also campaigning for a government apology, backed by Bundesverband Trans* (BvT), a trans advocacy group.

Today Bollwinkel’s goal is to make Germans aware of the country’s dark history of sterilisation – dating back to the Nazi era – and to acknowledge the rights of trans people, despite conservative attitudes among many voters and lawmakers.

Several European nations still require trans people to undergo surgery and sterilisation, or be diagnosed with a mental disorder, to have their new gender legally recognised, Transgender Europe advocacy group says.

Sweden became the first country in the world in 2018 to offer compensation of $23,882 to hundreds of trans people who had to undergo sterilisation to get their change of gender recognised – and it wants Germany to follow.

“I am not interested in money,” Bollwinkel told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “But in Germany, like in other European societies, recognition has to come in the shape of euros to be considered real.”

The justice ministry declined to comment. The interior ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

One German trans woman who was sterilised almost 30 years ago said the law robbed her of her chance to start a family – a choice being made by a growing number of trans people who have transitioned and retained their reproductive organs.

“They just could not conceive that a man could get pregnant or that a woman could make another woman pregnant,” said the woman who is in her late 60s and declined to be named.

“They stole that from us … There was no justification.”


Sweden called on Germany last year to set up a national compensation fund for trans people who were coerced into sterilisation or unwanted gender reassignment surgery.

When one lawmaker raised the issue with the German parliament this year, an interior ministry official said in a written reply that the federal government had “taken note” of Sweden’s recommendation but “saw no need for those measures”.

Germany’s first trans lawmaker Tessa Ganserer, who transitioned from male to female in Bavaria’s regional parliament in 2019, is also pushing for reform to make it easier to change your name and sex on identity documents.

Under the 1980 Transsexuals Act, a mental health diagnosis is required in order to make legal changes, which campaigners reject as distressing, stigmatising, costly and inaccessible.

Additional requirements of proof of sterility and gender reassignment surgery were struck out by the constitutional court in 2011. At least 10,000 people were sterilised prior to this ruling, according to the Berlin-based BvT.

The health ministry said it did not know how many cases exist.

A growing number of countries, including Ireland, Belgium and France, have adopted laws allowing self-identification, which campaigners say is less invasive and traumatic for trans people who often face abuse when their documents do not match.

A new draft law for Germany was leaked to the media in May but no further action has been taken.


Winning political backing for reform will not be easy in a country that is unwinding a legacy of discrimination, which included sending gay men to Nazi concentration camps, and where many conservatives and Catholics have opposed gay marriage.

Under German “racial purity” laws, ethnic Roma were subjected to forced sterilisation from 1934, as were thousands of women in Japan, Sweden and dozens of U.S. states during the 20th century whose governments did not want them to reproduce.

Homosexuality was decriminalised in Germany in 1969 and parliament in 2017 agreed to compensate thousands of gay men who had been jailed under the law.

When Germany legalised same-sex marriage in 2017, Chancellor Angela Merkel, the daughter of a Protestant pastor, voted against the bill, as did the majority of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) lawmakers.

Merkel said she believed marriage as defined under German law was between a man and a woman.

Alexander Vogt, who heads the CDU’s LGBT+ group, said parliamentary dynamics further complicate the push for reform.

“If something is brought to the table by the Left or the Greens, the natural reaction in the centre-right is often no, unfortunately,” said Vogt, whose CDU is in coalition with the Christian Social Union and centre-left Social Democrats.

Not all conservatives oppose LGBT+ rights.

Openly gay CDU health minister Jens Spahn last month submitted a draft law to ban so-called conversion therapy, which aims to change a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation, for under-18s.

Lawmaker Doris Achelwilm said her Left party is preparing a request to fund research into mandatory sterilisations and compensation for victims, as well as demanding a state apology.

But she recognises the public is unlikely to back the idea.

“We need to go on working on that,” she said.

Sarah, who underwent sterilisation in 1998 and declined to give her full name, said politicians should take responsibility for the human rights abuses that took place.

“This is not about our private past. It’s about the history of this country,” she said. “Many of the victims have already died. I wonder how many of us will leave this world before they understand what was done to us in the name of law.”

54 undocumented foreign nationals arrested in Limpopo, busses carrying them impounded
31 December 2019, 4:04 PM

Fifty four undocumented foreign nationals were arrested and three buses transporting them were impounded at a road block in Polokwane, Limpopo. The law enforcers have also intercepted a bakkie carrying contraband cigarettes. The cigarettes are valued at over R1 million.

Police officers, Deputy Minister of Police, Cassel Mathale and Transport and Community Safety MEC, Dickson Masemola manned a road block to ensure safety of travelers.

They also interacted with shoppers at Mall of the North. Traffic flow increased on Tuesday ahead of the New Year. Mathale says police visibility is important to fight and prevent crime.

“At the roadblocks we experienced two or three busses from Zimbabwe. They can’t continue with their journey unfortunately. We also managed to stop a fellow who was transporting boxes of cigarettes without the proper documentation. Others were driving vehicles that have been tampered with, while others were driving vehicles that are not roadworthy.”

Some shoppers, who were doing last minute shopping ahead of the New Year, expressed satisfaction on police visibility at the malls. One of the shoppers says police should maintain high visibility.

“I think it’s a good thing and I like them being here. I think it prevents criminals from targeting here. I like it and I think they should do it more.”

At the Polokwane traffic department, people were left stranded as the offices closed at nine in the morning. Some wanted to pay traffic fines, renew motor vehicle disc licences and driver’s licenses, among others. This is what they had to say.

“I came to renew my licence and if they are closed, I don’t know what i am going to do. I am afraid that they will fine me on the road if i don’t do it today. I am disappointed. It’s funny – they opened at eight and closed an hour later. I am just her to collect my licence.”

Community members were advised to ensure that they’re safe as they usher-in the New Year.

They already have a diesel depot, where over 2000 taxis in Rustenburg buy their fuel.
Rustenburg taxi associations to form own bank, tire company
31 December 2019, 3:40 PM

Minibus taxi owners in Rustenburg, North West, have joined hands to make life easier for those in the industry. Some call them bosses of the road, while others say they are the most reckless drivers.

Tired of having their minibus taxis repossessed or stuck next to the road or on top of bricks, these taxi owners decided to formalise their trade and register a company.

Six long-distance taxi associations have formed the Rustenburg Long Distance Transport Holdings. They are in the process of registering a bank and opening a tire manufacturing company.

They already have a diesel depot, where over 2000 taxis in Rustenburg buy their fuel.

57-year-old father of six, Jan Mosiane, a former policeman, resigned from his job 30 years ago to join the taxi industry.

Mosiane knows the difficulties of having his minibus taxi repossessed, or for it to be stuck for months while struggling to find money to repair it.

He says, “The most important thing about our bank is that our cars will no longer be repossessed.”

The venture will benefit taxi owners, who will be able to get a loan from the bank, which is a subsidiary of the holdings, to buy new taxis or spare parts when their vehicles get stuck. Also, employees, such as taxi operators will be registered, have accounts with the bank and even have home loans from the bank at lower rates.

This initiative has been welcomed by the owners and operators of minibus taxis.

“The system of management of vehicles is going to be safer, cheaper, as we will have a bank which belongs to the group itself, the holdings. We need benefits as drivers. Rustenburg Transport Holdings as it has been formed will benefit us as the drivers.”

The Marketing Director of Rustenburg Long Distance Transport Holdings, Itumeleng Lekgetho, says it’s high time that those with the know-how in the taxi industry to take charge.

“We have formed these holdings because we saw that our people are suffering. If one of our members wants to buy a car or house and they go to the bank, they ask you so many questions, your bank statements and then you don’t qualify. We discussed this and said gentlemen, ‘let’s do something that can benefit us.’”

The company is now in the process of registering a mobility primary corporative bank with the Reserve Bank. But for now, the plan is for it to only benefit its members and employees.

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