The abduction and horrific torture of comedienne Samantha "Gonyeti" Kureya, currently bed- ridden at a city hospital, has shaken the arts industry in what could encourage a sense of self-censorship among many, it has emerged.
This development comes at a time when a growing number of activists as well as members of the MDC Alliance have allegedly been captured in similar ways by suspected state agents in a new wave signalling repression of dissenting voices in the country.
"To us, this is very frightening because what it means is that we are going to censor ourselves because as comedians we stand in between the ruler and the people, but with this intimidation, it means we just have to keep quiet," a standup comedian told Standard Style on condition of anonymity.
"We have been through what we thought were harder times than now under Robert Mugabe, but we have never seen this [torture]."
The last few months have been hectic for artistes critiquing the status quo despite President Emmerson Mangagwa's promise of a "New Dispensation", which would respect human rights, including freedom of speech and expression, when he took over power from Mugabe in November 2017.
Last month legendary playwright Daves Guzha and film producer Tendai Maduwa were arrested for launching a movie without the Censorship Board's green light.
Jester Prosper "Comic Pastor" Ngomashi was called in by police for questioning over a skit, while Gonyeti and Maggie of Bustop TV were fined over a 2016 joke.
Even musician Winky D has been threatened and was said to have gone into hiding at some point owing to his hard-hitting lyrics.
"Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, what do I do, I fear no evil... When you know you are #Next #notsafe and still can't #run," Comic Pastor wrote on his Facebook wall.
In all this, Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation minister Kirsty Coventry has remained mum despite the evident clampdown.
However, government officials who commented on the Gonyeti case appeared to discredit her harrowing experience as a stunt.
"Gonyeti did a comedy on police accommodation and it's apparent she has done another one on abductions. We will not be fooled," posted Information deputy minister Energy Mutodi on Twitter.
Permanent secretary for Informartion, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Ndavaningi "Nick" Mangwana said:
"Recent activities in Zimbabwe have all the hallmarks of 'black ops', hence need to be analysed dispassionately. Who stands to gain from damage to ED's local and international prestige? Why would masked people abduct then order the victim not to criticise government? Nicely setting things up?"
Although government has denied involvement, it remains to be seen if they will condemn or bring culprits of this clampdown, which has left many artistes fretting, to book.
Coventry could not be reached for comment.