A Linguistic Reconstruction of Zimbabwe’s ‘Decade of Crisis’: Analyzing Labels on Buildings at the University of Zimbabwe

Laston Mukaro, Maxwell Kadenge, Itai Muwati, Victor Mugari


This article purveys a linguistic exegesis of the ‘decade of crisis’ in Zimbabwe. The crisis period spans the years 2000 to 2009. During this period, the Zimbabwean economy reached a nadir while life in general became very precarious. Against this backdrop, this article adopts a panoramic gaze at the universe of names and labels on buildings at the University of Zimbabwe (henceforth UZ). It utilises these linguistic labels or signage as primary data for hypothesising on the ‘decade of crisis’. The general observation is that most of the linguistic signs (which are in English) on buildings at Zimbabwe’s premier institution of higher learning had undergone imponderable linguistic hemorrhage and abrasion by losing one or more letters. The degradation of the signs reached a point where some of them became completely meaningless by English standards. This occurred during the crisis years. Thus, we marshal the argument that the broken down state of the signage serves as a symbol of the state of the nation during those horrendous years. Because these are supposed to be direction signs as well, ensuring easy movement, identification, functionality and location, they epitomise, at least during that period, a dislocated nation; one incapable of defining its operational and directional agenda. At the endpoint of the crisis, the linguistic labels are fixed, marking a gradual return to normalcy in the nation and its institutions. The UZ is quite ideal for the purposes of our discussion because it is entirely dependent on government for its operations such that any malfunctioning of government quickly reflects on its human and physical infrastructure.

DOI: 10.5901/mjss.2014.v5n27p1605

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Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences ISSN 2039-9340(Print) ISSN 2039-2117(Online)

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