JOHANNESBURG: A fire ignited by a lightning strike has destroyed a tourism building in a South African village where anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela was born, his family announced on Sunday.

The Mvezo Welcome Centre was still under construction and due to serve as the initial point of contact for tourists, with an information desk, shops and an eatery. The centre was on Saturday “struck by lightning... and its thatched roof caught fire resulting in the complete destruction of the centre,” said a statement released by Mandela’s oldest grandson Mandla Mandela. Photos shared on social media showed the thatched roof engulfed in flames.

“This was an act of nature and no foul play or any other cause is suspected,” said Mandela, a parliamentarian who is also the local chief of Mvezo village, the late Mandela’s birthplace where Mvezo is in the Eastern Cape province where five people drowned in flooding from torrential rain on Saturday.

Mandela was elected as first president of democratic South Africa in May 1994 and held the role until June 1999. He died aged 95 in 2013.

Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2022

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