Updated at 10.30pm
NELSON MANDELA, FORMER President of South Africa and one of the towering political figures of the 20th century, has died. He was 95.
The news was announced by a clearly a emotional South African president Jacob Zuma live on television, who said Mandela had “departed” and was at peace.
“He is now resting,” a sombre Zuma said as he addressed the nation on TV.
“Our nation has lost its greatest son.”
Mandela, who was elected South Africa’s first black president after spending nearly three decades in prison, had been receiving treatment for a lung infection at his Johannesburg home since September, after three months in hospital in a critical state.
The national icon’s family members began to gather at his home earlier today, as news began to filter out that ‘Madiba’ was on his deathbed.
His condition as he was discharged from hospital was described at the time as ‘critical and unstable,’ with much speculation that he was being allowed home to die.
The hospitalisation, the fourth in seven months, was the latest in a string of health scares relating to recurring pneumonia.
His lung problems date back to 1988 when he was diagnosed with early-stage tuberculosis while incarcerated in apartheid-era jails. He spent 27 years in prison after being arrested and convicted of sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government in 1962.
Thoughts and prayers have been offered up for the Nobel laureate in the past year. However, there has also been an element of acceptance that the country’s first black president had become frail and aged.
Today, the country, which is still deeply divided in terms of race and socio-economic class, mourns the statesman many still refer to by his clan name. He is the symbol of unification in a country destroyed by racial tensions and inequality and seen as the architect of the nation’s democracy.
After decades of activism, Mandela stepped down from politics in 1999. He has not appeared in public since South Africa’s football World Cup final in 2010.
Additional reporting, Sinéad O’Carroll and wire services.