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Controversy has shaken the Student’s Union elections as it has emerged that the sole candidate for BME Officer, Tionenji Lishomwa, has expressed a series of homophobic, anti-transgender and anti-Muslim posts on Social Media over the past twelve months.
Screenshots circulated on social media during the week of the elections included Lishomwa describing Pride as ‘vulgar, uninteresting, and frankly shoved down everyone’s throat’ as well as commenting that ‘Being LGBT supportive is not a virtue’, and ‘Wait… there’s a documentary on transgender CHILDREN? By an esteemed media establishment. It’s rare I say this, but I’m sickened.’
Lishomwa also made statements on the topic of racial equality, including ‘Where is this alleged institutional racism? Last I checked, anybody can study, work in and do what they want, regardless of skin colour. I thought that was a good thing! Silly me.’
It was also revealed that Lishomwa had published articles on a website called AltNewsMeida.net, including pieces entitled ‘Was Mohammed a paedophile’, and ‘Do Muslims commit more sexual offences?’. The website features regular columns from radical right politician Anne Marie-Waters, who lost the UK Independence Party leadership election after party figures expressed concern about her views on Islam.
Lishomwa’s profile was made private during election week but her publicly-visible bio still links to @AltNewsMedia.
When SCAN investigated, it was found that the posts which have been circulating on Social Media have now been removed from Lishomwa’s Twitter feed. She has adjusted her profile bio to conclude with the comment ‘trying to be a better person’. During the week that elections have been taking place, she has retweeted a post acknowledging the right to be homosexual, and also an article criticising the fact that a school in Birmingham had decided not to hold planned lessons on LGBT rights after parents protested.
Other content published on the site includes several articles promoting former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson, and one describing Conservative Peer and anti-Islamophobia campaigner Baroness Warsi as a ‘Conservativephobe’.
Will Brook, LGBTQ+ Officer released a statement on Facebook, stating, ‘Her, (Lishomwa’s) rhetoric threatens several LGBTQ+ identities – including those members of our community that are also BME themselves – with the blatant transphobia/homophobia and dismissal of Pride. The LGBTQ+ exec and PTO believe that someone that has created a platform for hate should not be given a representative position on campus and thus if the candidate is elected our forum will be pushing for a full VNC in the candidate before she takes office in July. The liberation forums are meant to generate safe spaces on campus, and for those BME students that now feel unsafe because of this recent hatred, as well as any other minority students, the LGBTQ+ forum is always open to you so please contact us with any questions or problems that you’re facing because you are not alone, and we stand together.’ (Disclaimer: This is the opinion of the PTO on behalf of the society exec- not of The Union itself)
When SCAN approached the Student’s Union for a statement, a representative said, ‘The union is aware of concerns that have been raised by several students relating to opinions that have been expressed by one of its election candidates. It is vital that the union upholds the integrity of its democratic governance, especially the conduct of elections. The election will continue to take place as scheduled unless a complaint is received that relates to the elections process and rules or, is potentially actionable under our Students’ Union Code of Conduct.’
“Members of the union’s electorate who self-define as BME are in a position to make a choice over who they wish to elect.”
The Union has communicated the concerns that have been raised to the university, who will assess whether any evidence presented to them may constitute a breach of the institution’s rules. The Union and the University are looking at this closely, but in the interests of democracy and fairness, it is vital that these issues are investigated in a thorough and balanced way.
Lishomwa has been approached for comment.
Update: Tionenji Lishomwa has been defeated in the BME PTO election, so nominations are to be re-opened.