Samantha Kureya, the comedian popularly known as Gonyeti, who has been critical of the Zimbabwean police and government in skits, has gone into hiding after being abducted from her home in Harare and tortured.
The attack on Kureya on Wednesday night was the latest crackdown on artists and activists in the country. Commentators say the move is an attempt to eliminate any opposition and criticism of President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his government.
Kureya was found naked and traumatised after being abducted and tortured by masked gunmen in the capital.
She had been severely assaulted and forced to drink sewage-contaminated water.
Sharon Chideu, a friend and fellow comedian, told the BBC how Kureya was abducted.
“Masked gunmen, more than six of them, knocked at the door and pretended they were police,” Chideu was quoted as saying.
“The moment they opened the door she realised they were wearing masks and had guns.”
Wearing only underwear and a T-shirt, Kureya was dragged out of her home at around 9pm on Wednesday and forced into a waiting vehicle.
Chideu said “they made her roll in the sewage water”.
“When she’d roll to one side they’d start kicking her, they were stepping on her back,” she said.
Chideu said they were living in fear since Kureya’s attack.
Kureya said the gunmen accused her of mocking the government and said they had been watching her. “They told me to lie down and instructed me to start rolling on the ground. They would instruct me to roll from either side and each time I did, I would get beaten. They started stomping on my back,” the 33-year-old was quoted as saying.
When the beatings stopped and her attackers had left, a Good Samaritan gave her clothes and a cellphone to call her brother who arrived with the police.
In an interview with Nehanda Radio later Kureya said: “That is how I survive. I don’t have any other job, plus we all can’t just keep quiet when things are as bad as they are in this country.”
The comedian is a big presence on Zimbabwean Bustop TV, where she uses skits as a commentary on the country’s politics.
Earlier this year, Kureya and another comedian were arrested for public nuisance after appearing in a comic sketch wearing police uniforms.
Before this week’s attack six activists and opposition members were also reported to have been abducted and severely tortured by people believed to be police.
Despite facing criticism from the opposition MDC and the condemnation of the crackdown on activists and reports of abuse from the EU, US and UK, Mnangagwa’s government has responded by saying the rule of law should be respected and those who break the law would be dealt with.
The police confirmed that a case of kidnapping and torture was being investigated.