Anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela dies at 95

Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first elected black president and a global anti-apartheid icon has died early today aged 95, President Jacob Zuma said.

"Fellow South Africans, our beloved...The founding president of our democratic nation, has departed," Zuma said in a nationally televised address.

He passed away peacefully at 20:50 (local time), December 5, Zuma said.

"He is now resting. He is now at peace...Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father," he said.

Mandela will have a state funeral. Zuma ordered all flags in the nation to be flown at half-staff from today through the funeral, the BBC reported.

Madiba, as Mandela was fondly known, had been battling health issues in recent months, including a recurring lung infection that led to numerous hospitalisations.

Friends and relatives of the ailing statesman had gathered yesterday, at his Johannesburg home where "democratic South Africa's founding father" was said to be on his "deathbed".

Daughter Makaziwe Mandela, in an interview to national broadcaster SABC, had said, the 95-year-old world leader continues to fight against the ailments ravaging him.

Grandchild, Ndaba Mandela, yesterday had also lamented Mandela's ill state.

Mandela was admitted to the Pretoria Heart Clinic in June, where he was treated for a recurring lung infection before he was released to receive home-based care nearly three months later.

At the time there was a outpouring of love and concern for the elder statesman from around the world. However yesterday, it was quiet outside Mandela's Houghton home, where a slew of specialist physicians were attending to his health.

Last month, Mandela's ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela said he was no longer talking "because of all the tubes that are in his mouth to clear (fluid from) the lungs".

Mandela, who emerged from prison after 27 years to lead South Africa out of decades of apartheid before becoming the country's first black leader, had faced several health scares.

His most recent hospital stay spanning over three months was his longest since he walked free in 1990.

Mandela is widely respected for his role in fighting racism in South Africa, and for forgiving his former white captors after his release from prison.

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