Zuma: We will always love you, Madiba

2013-12-06 00:31

South Africa “has lost one of its greatest sons”, President Jacob Zuma has said, announcing the death of former president Nelson Mandela.

Former president Nelson Mandela “passed on peacefully” at 8.50pm last night, Zuma told the nation in an address broadcast live on local television stations.

“We will always love you, Madiba. May your soul rest in peace. God bless Africa, Nkosi Sikilel’ iAfrika,” Zuma said.

He urged people to “live as Mandela had lived”, and encouraged South Africans to stand together to build a prosperous and democratic society.

“This is the moment of our greatest sorrow, but it should also be the moment of our greatest determination,” he said.

Zuma also expressed sympathy with his wife, Graca Machel, his former wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, and the rest of Mandela’s family.

He expressed his gratitude on behalf of the nation for the family for having endured much and allowing Mandela to serve it.

Zuma said Mandela’s struggle for freedom had earned him the respect of the world, while his humanity earned him their love.

Zuma said flags would fly at half-mast from tomorrow until after Mandela’s funeral.

“Although we knew this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss,” he said.

Soon after making the announcement, Zuma's cavalcade was seen leaving the Union Buildings, reports Xolani Mbanjwa.

Outside Mandela's Houghton home in Joburg, a mother and her two children expressed deep sadness after hearing the news, reports Athandiwe Saba. "I'm sad but at the same time I think he's lived," she said with tears in her eyes.

Media members huddled together around a radio as Zuma announced Mandela's passing.

Mandela spent more than three months at the Pretoria Heart hospital before he was sent to his Houghton home where he died last night.

For more than a decade, Mandela's health deteriorated after he left public office in 1999, as he was admitted to numerous hospitals for the lung infection he developed during his 27-year incarceration.

Mandela's body is expected to lie in state in Pretoria for a number of days before his burial, which is expected to take place in his home village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape.

More announcements on funeral arrangements are expected to be made later today.

» This story was updated after first published.

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