Infallible as a champion of the people around the globe, it was Mr Mandela’s family who surrounded him at his home in Johannesburg when he died peacefully at around 8.40pm on Thursday.
At the grand age of 95, illness claimed Mr Mandela’s life three months after his release from hospital. He had been receiving medical care for a lung infection at home, having been dogged by respiratory problems since he contracted tuberculosis in prison.
Married three times, he fathered six children and had 17 grandchildren. His three surviving children are daughter Makaziwe by his first marriage, and daughters Zindzi and Zenani by his second.
His first wife, nurse Evelyn Mase, bore him four children. A daughter died in infancy, a son was killed in a car crash in 1970 and another son died of Aids in 2005. The couple divorced in 1957 and Evelyn died in 2004.
The icon’s grandson, Mandla Mandela, said he was strengthened by the knowledge that his grandfather was finally resting and would remember Mr Mandela, as a grandfather, as kind-hearted, generous and wise.
“All that I can do is thank God that I had a grandfather who loved and guided all of us in the family,” Mandla Mandela said in a statement. “The best lesson that he taught all of us was the need for us to be prepared to be of service to our people.”
Mandla Mandela expressed gratitude for the national and international support his family had received during Mr Mandela’s long health problems.
“We in the family recognise that Madiba belongs not only to us but to the entire world. The messages we have received since last night have heartened and overwhelmed us.”
Mr Mandela’s daughter Zindzi Mandela was in London when she was informed her father had died. She was attending the screening in Leicester Square of a biopic charting Mr Mandela’s extraordinary life, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom in which the great freedom fighter is portrayed by English actor Idris Elba.