Johannesburg, December 06, 2013-Leaders across the world have paid tribute to Nelson Mandela after the former South African president passed away at the age of 95.
South African president Jacob Zuma announced the sad news in a hastily arranged press conference on Thursday night.
Mr Zuma said “the nation has lost it’s greatest son”, and that “he is now resting. He is now at peace.”
He said that the former apartheid fighter died at his home with his loved ones beside him.
Mr Zuma said: “Our nation has lost its greatest son.
“Although we knew this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss, his tireless struggle for freedom and him. The respect of the world.
“His humility, his compassion and his humanity.”
The Queen has said she was “deeply saddened” to learn of Mandela’s death, saying the former South African president “worked tirelessly for the good of his country”.
A Buckingham Palace statement: “The Queen was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Nelson Mandela last night.
“He worked tirelessly for the good of his country, and his legacy is the peaceful South Africa we see today.
“Her Majesty remembers with great warmth her meetings with Mr Mandela and sends her sincere condolences to his family and the people of South Africa at this very said time.”
The Prince of Wales, who met Mandela on several occasions, added his own tribute to the great leader.
He said: “Mr Mandela was the embodiment of courage and reconciliation. He was also a man of great humour and had a real zest for life.
“With his passing, there will be an immense void not only in his family’s lives, but also in those of all South Africans and the many others whose lives have been changed through his fight for peace, justice and freedom.
“The world has lost an inspired leader and a great man. My family and I are profoundly saddened and our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Nelson Mandela dead, Nelson Mandela, South Africa, David Cameron, Gordon Brown, barack Obama, Reaction, Twitter, Jacob ZumaLOVED: Mandela was idolised all over the world for his compassion and bravery [WENN]
Prime Minister David Cameron was among countless world leaders to pay his respects.
He said: “A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a towering figure in our time; a legend in life and now in death – a true global hero.
“Across the country he loved they will be mourning a man who was the embodiment of grace.
“Meeting him was one of the great honours of my life. My heart goes out to his family – and to all in South Africa and around the world whose lives were changed through his courage.”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg added: “Our thoughts go out to the people of South Africa who will be left heartbroken by this sad news.
“Every so often history produces an individual whose message is universal, and Nelson Mandela will be mourned and missed on every continent around the globe.
“The hope he offered was enough to unite races. It bridged cultures and transcended generations and it could heal the deepest divides.”
Thousands of South Africans took to the streets to pay tribute to the man known as Madiba
South African president Jacob Zuma looked visibly shaken as he announced the news.
President Barack Obama also paid tribute to the iconic leader, who helped bring together South Africa after decades of racial oppression.
Speaking from the White House he said: “He achieved more than could be expected of any man.
“Today he’s gone home, and we’ve lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this earth,” Obama said.
President Obama once visited the prison cell on Robben Island where Mandela was caged for 27 years.
Mandela was revered around the world for the way he led South Africa out of the apartheid era.
“I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s life,” Obama said.
“Like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set, and so long as I live I will do what I can to learn from him.”
Mandela had been seriously ill for some time and the world was told on Wednesday that he was on his “death bed”.
He had been receiving intensive medical care at home in Johannesburg for a lung infection.
Known as Madiba to many in South Africa, Mandela was president between 1994 and 1999.
“What made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human,” said President Zuma
“We saw in him what we seek in ourselves.
“And in him, we saw so much of ourselves.”
President Zuma announced that flags across South Africa be lowered to half mast from December 6 until Mr Mandela’s funeral.
He said the country will repay their respects with dignity and respect “that Madiba personifies”.
Mr Zuma said: “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 reaffirm his vision of a society in which none are exploited or oppressed of dispossessed by another.
“Let us express each in our own way the deep gratitude we feel before a life spent in service of the people of this country and in the cause of humanity.”
He repeated: “That is indeed of our deepest sorrow.”
One of the most iconic moments in sporting history as Mandela hands white South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar the Rugby Union World Cup [AFP/GETTY]
Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years after being convicted of sabotage in 1962.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner was one of the most iconic and revered men in the world after calling for peace and reconciliation in South Africa despite being imprisoned for 27 years.
He has rarely been seen in public since officially retiring in 2004.
Mandela was elected South Africa’s first black president in 1994.