South Africa’s first black president and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela has died, South Africa’s president says.
Mr Mandela, 95, led South Africa’s transition from white-minority rule in the 1990s, after 27 years in prison.
He had been receiving intense home-based medical care for a lung infection after three months in hospital.
In a statement on South African national TV, Mr Zuma said Mr Mandela had “departed” and was at peace.
He spent a long period of time in hospital earlier this year after suffering a recurring lung infection.
The country’s current president, Jacob Zuma, made the announcement during a live address.
In a televised address, Mr Zuma said: “Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father.
“What made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves.”
Mr Zuma said “the nation has lost it’s greatest son”, adding “he is now resting. He is now at peace.”
Mandela’s forgiving spirit and belief in racial reconciliation helped hold South Africa together at a time of extreme tension in the run up to elections in 1994.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who was imprisoned for 27 years by the racist white regime, became the first democratically elected president of South Africa in that year.
Mandela was robust during his decades as a public figure, endowed with charisma, a powerful memory and an extraordinary talent for articulating the aspirations of his people and winning over many of those who opposed him.
In recent years, however, he had become more frail and last made a public appearance at the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament, where he didn’t deliver an address and was bundled against the cold.
In another recent illness, Mandela was treated for a lung infection and had a procedure to remove gallstones in December. In March, he spent a night in a hospital for what authorities said was a scheduled medical test.
On April 29, state television broadcast footage of a visit by President Jacob Zuma and other ANC leaders to Mr Mandela at his Johannesburg home.
Mr Zuma said at the time that Mr Mandela was in good shape, but the footage – the first public images of Mr Mandela in nearly a year – showed him silent and unresponsive, even when Mr Zuma tried to hold his hand.
He had been vulnerable to respiratory problems since contracting tuberculosis during 27 years as the prisoner.
The bulk of that period was spent on Robben Island, off the coast of Cape Town where he and other prisoners spent part of the time working in a stone quarry.
He was freed in 1990 and won election to the presidency in the country’s first all-race elections in 1994.
He was seen by many around the world as a symbol of resolve and reconciliation for his sacrifice in confinement, as well as his peacemaking efforts during the tense transition that saw the demise of the apartheid system.
The former leader retired from public life years ago and had received medical care at his Johannesburg home until his latest transfer to a hospital.
Below is President Zuma’s full statement:
My Fellow South Africans,
Our beloved Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the founding President of our democratic nation has departed.
He passed on peacefully in the company of his family around 20h50 on the 5th of December 2013.
He is now resting. He is now at peace.
Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father.
Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss.
His tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of the world.
His humility, his compassion, and his humanity earned him their love. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Mandela family. To them we owe a debt of gratitude.
They have sacrificed much and endured much so that our people could be free.
Our thoughts are with his wife Mrs Graca Machel, his former wife Ms Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, with his children, his grand-children, his great grand-children and the entire family.
Our thoughts are with his friends, comrades and colleagues who fought alongside Madiba over the course of a lifetime of struggle.
Our thoughts are with the South African people who today mourn the loss of the one person who, more than any other, came to embody their sense of a common nationhood.
Our thoughts are with the millions of people across the world who embraced Madiba as their own, and who saw his cause as their cause.
This is the moment of our deepest sorrow.
Our nation has lost its greatest son.
Yet, what made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves.
And in him we saw so much of ourselves.
Fellow South Africans,
Nelson Mandela brought us together, and it is together that we will bid him farewell.
Our beloved Madiba will be accorded a State Funeral.
I have ordered that all flags of the Republic of South Africa be lowered to half-mast from tomorrow, 6 December, and to remain at half-mast until after the funeral.
As we gather to pay our last respects, let us conduct ourselves with the dignity and respect that Madiba personified.
Let us be mindful of his wishes and the wishes of his family.
As we gather, wherever we are in the country and wherever we are in the world, let us recall the values for which Madiba fought.
Let us reaffirm his vision of a society in which none is exploited, oppressed or dispossessed by another.
Let us commit ourselves to strive together – sparing neither strength nor courage – to build a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.
Let us express, each in our own way, the deep gratitude we feel for a life spent in service of the people of this country and in the cause of humanity.
This is indeed the moment of our deepest sorrow.
Yet it must also be the moment of our greatest determination.
A determination to live as Madiba has lived, to strive as Madiba has strived and to not rest until we have realised his vision of a truly united South Africa, a peaceful and prosperous Africa, and a better world.
We will always love you Madiba!
May your soul rest in peace.
God Bless Africa.
Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika.