Chinese-born ANC MP Xiaomei Havard posed her first parliamentary question to President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday – eliciting stares from some MPs and soliciting Twitter comments just days after allegations that she was spying for China emerged.
As her name was called by Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, MPs looked in her direction as she stood to ask her question.
Havard was recruited into the ANC after she participated in party activities in Gauteng, where she lives and was a businesswoman in the Johannesburg Chinese community.
She was credited with facilitating business opportunities for many South African women and businesspeople in China.
But her nomination and inclusion into the ANC National Assembly list solicited a flurry of criticism. Some questioned the deployment of a Chinese national at the expense of a South African citizen to fill the vacancy left by the late Jackson Mthembu.
This week News24 reported that some State Security Agency (SSA) members had allegedly leaked information that Havard was spying on South Africa on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party. She allegedly sent sensitive information to China. She vehemently denied this when asked by The Citizen.
The ANC defended her appointment on the basis that the party was nonracial and Havard had South African citizenship and was therefore qualified to be elected.
Havard said: “I have never supplied any intelligence information to any Chinese intelligence agencies. I even do not know who those Chinese intelligence agencies are.”
Despite the allegations, Havard said she remained “very strong and resolute on my principles”.
“I firmly believe I can save this world through the blessing of God.”
She said the spy reports were a result of infighting among factional groupings within the Chinese community in South Africa that wanted to discredit her.
Havard asked Ramaphosa about the slow uptake of vaccines and what government was doing to quell vaccination fears and encourage citizens to inoculate.
In his answer, Ramaphosa acknowledged that indeed there was hesitancy among some communities – something he said had been encouraged by some statements and positions made by the likes of United Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) leader Rev Kenneth Meshoe, who clained that the vaccines were no good.
Ramaphosa said such statements had had a negative effect on the acceptance of the vaccines and had resulted in the avoidable deaths of many, especially in Africa.
He found it bizarre that even though it had been proven that the vaccines saved lives and international scientists encouraged inoculation, there was still doubt.
The president added vaccines were not new, as they were around in the past, and they had never killed people in the manner it was stated in the ongoing fake news campaign.
He cautioned South Africans to inoculate and ignore claims that vaccines kill. They had been proven scientifically to be working.
Ramaphosa praised those who encouraged inoculation and further urged political, religious and traditional leaders to encourage their members to vaccinate.
“I want to discourage those who talk against the vaccines without any scientific evidence. Vaccines work, otherwise we will rely on rumours that they do not work,” Ramaphosa said.
But ACDP MP Steve Swart objected to Ramaphosa’s accusing Meshoe of promoting the vaccine boycott, saying the president should not tell the ACDP leader how to express himself on the issue.
Swart was supported by the ACDP’s Wayne Thring.