South Africa’s first black president and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela died at the age of 95 on Thursday night after a prolonged lung infection.
The announcement of Mandela’s death was made by President Jacob Zuma in a touching speech to the nation.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Mandela family”, he said, “with his friends and collegues, and with the South African people”.
Settled in April 1994 as President, Mandela’s last public appearance was in 2010 during the World Cup.
After his health began to fail, he was hospitalized in February 2012 for a long-standing stomach ailment, Mandela returned to the rural community where he was born.
Crowds have gathered outside the house where the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize died, some flying South African flags and wearing the shirts of the governing African National Congress, which Mr Mandela once led.
Zuma has ordered that all flags in the nation be flown at half staff from Friday till Mandela’s funeral.
“Our nation has lost its greatest son, our people have lost his father,” Mr Zuma said.
“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”