Former South African President Nelson Mandela died on Thursday at the age of 95 after months of struggling with illness.
President Jacob Zuma made the announcement that the anti-apartheid icon had died in a televised address. He said that Mandela died “peacefully”, surrounded by family, at around 8.50 p.m., AP reported.
He had been receiving intensive medical care at home for a lung infection after spending three months in hospital.
“Our nation has lost its greatest son,” Zuma said.
“Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed heart-felt condolences to the president and people of South Africa over the demise of Mandela on Friday.
In a message to Zuma, Rouhani said, “Nelson Mandela had an unshakable faith in the freedom and equality of all human beings, not only in his country of South Africa but also across the globe.”
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, former president Mohammad Khatami, and a number of other senior Iranian officials also paid tribute to Mandela.
Heads of state and officials in many other countries across the world paid glowing tribute to the iconic leader on Friday.
South Africans gathered outside the home of Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg on Friday, singing and chanting slogans to celebrate his life.
Mandela led South Africa’s transition from white-minority rule in the 1990s, after 27 years in prison for his political activities.
Zuma said Mandela -- who is known affectionately by his clan name, Madiba -- had died shortly before 21:00 local time (19:00 GMT). He said he would receive a full state funeral, and flags would be flown at half-mast.
Crowds gathered outside the house where Mandela died, some flying South African flags and wearing the shirts of the governing African National Congress, which Mandela once led.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate was one of the world’s most revered statesmen after preaching reconciliation despite being imprisoned for 27 years.
He had rarely been seen in public since officially retiring in 2004. He made his last public appearance in 2010, at the football World Cup in South Africa.
His fellow campaigner against apartheid, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, said he was “not only an amazing gift to humankind, he made South Africans and Africans feel good about being who we are. He made us walk tall. God be praised.”
In 1962, Mandela was arrested and sentenced to five years for incitement and illegally leaving the country. While serving that sentence, he was charged with sabotage and plotting to overthrow the government along with other anti-apartheid leaders in the Rivonia Trial.
Branded a terrorist by his enemies, Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964, isolated from millions of his countrymen as they suffered oppression, violence, and forced resettlement under the apartheid regime of racial segregation.
When he was released on February 11, 1990, walking away from the Victor Verster prison hand-in-hand with his wife Winnie, the event was watched live by television viewers across the world.
“As I finally walked through those gates… I felt even at the age of 71 that my life was beginning anew. My 10,000 days of imprisonment were at last over,” Mandela wrote of that day.
Mandela was elected president in South Africa’s first all-race elections on April 27, 1994. He served one five-year term and left office in 1999.