The announcement of Mandela’s death was made by President Jacob Zuma
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.
1918 Born in the Eastern Cape
1943 Joined African National Congress
1956 Charged with high treason, but charges dropped after a four-year trial
1962 Arrested, convicted of incitement and leaving country without a passport, sentenced to five years in prison
1964 Charged with sabotage, sentenced to life
1990 Freed from prison
1993 Wins Nobel Peace Prize
1994 Elected first black president
1999 Steps down as leader
2001 Diagnosed with prostate cancer
2004 Retires from public life
2005 Announces his son has died of an HIV/Aids-related illness
“Our nation has lost its greatest son,” Mr Zuma said.
He said Mr Mandela would receive a full state funeral, and flags would be flown at half-mast.
BBC correspondents say Mr Mandela’s body will be moved to a mortuary in Pretoria, and the funeral is likely to take place next Saturday.
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.
“What made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves,” Mr Zuma said.
“Fellow South Africans, Nelson Mandela brought us together and it is together that we will bid him farewell.”
US President Barack Obama said Mr Mandela achieved more than could be expected of any man.
He hailed him as “a man who took history in his hands and bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice”.
The greatest father there ever was: this is how South Africans will remember the man who brought an end to apartheid and delivered the nation from the brink of civil war.
Social networking sites are abuzz with messages of condolences and messages of gratitude to the late statesman. He had been in and out of hospital in recent years and had become increasingly frail but many South Africans had continued to express their unreadiness to lose him.
As he did in life, his passing has brought unity amongst South Africans as black and white speak of their love for him. Many here will be drawing on that same spirit for strength, that “Madiba magic” over the next few days and weeks as the nation left with the great burden of honouring Mr Madela’s legacy, mourns his passing but also celebrates his life.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron paid tribute to Mr Mandela, saying “a great light has gone out in the world”.
Since he was released from hospital, the South African presidency repeatedly described Mr Mandela’s condition as critical but stable.
Born in 1918, Nelson Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1943, as a law student.
He and other ANC leaders campaigned against apartheid (white-only rule).
He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964, but was released in 1990 as South Africa began to move away from strict racial segregation.
He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and was elected South Africa’s first black president in 1994. He stepped down after five years in office.
After leaving office, he became South Africa’s highest-profile ambassador, campaigning against HIV/Aids and helping to secure his country’s right to host the 2010 football World Cup.
He was also involved in peace negotiations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and other countries in Africa and elsewhere.
A look back at the life of Nelson Mandela.
BBC NEWS AFRICA.