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Lightning destroys building in Mandela’s birthplace

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 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 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.