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.
The Mvezo Welcome Centre has been destroyed by lightning.
The centre caught fire as torrential storms continue to batter parts of the Eastern Cape. Nelson Mandela’s granddaughter Ndileka Mandela shared video footage of the incident on her Facebook page. #DStv403 pic.twitter.com/jceC8DzTeY
— eNCA (@eNCA) January 9, 2022
“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 prople 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.
The building, which was at “an advanced stage of construction” was funded by the national lottery organiser.
The fire occurred, just days after a planned auction of the key to the prison cell that once held Mandela was suspended at the government’s request.
Proceeds from the sale were targeted for the building of a Mandela Memorial Garden in Qunu, about 20 kilometres (12 miles) away, where the former president was buried.
Picture: Getty Images