JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – President Jacob Zuma appealed to fellow South Africans to live up to Nelson Mandela’s ideals and realize his vision of a united country as he announced the death Thursday of the country’s beloved former leader at the age of 95.
"Fellow South Africans, Nelson Mandela brought us together, and it is together that we will bid him farewell," Zuma said in a somber late-night televised address to the nation.
In recent days, Mandela's daughter, Makaziwe, appeared to prepare the nation for this moment. On Tuesday, she said Mandela was on his "deathbed" at his home in Houghton, a Johannesburg suburb.
Zuma said Mandela would have a state funeral and all the flags in the nation would be lowered to half staff until he was buried.
"Let us express each in our own way the deep gratitude we feel for the life spent in the service of this country," Zuma said.
He said South Africa had "lost its greatest son."
"Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss," he said.
Zuma urged South Africans to honor Mandela's legacy by striving for a better world.
"This is indeed the moment of our deepest sorrow. Yet it must also be the moment of our greatest determination, a determination to live as Madiba has lived, to strive as Madiba has strived and to not rest until we have realized his vision of a truly united South Africa, a peaceful and prosperous Africa, and a better world," he said, using Mandela's clan name.
FULL COVERAGE: Anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela dies
Zuma said the thoughts of the nation were with Mandela’s family.
"To them we owe a debt of gratitude. They have sacrificed much and endured much so that our people could be free," Zuma said.
"Our thoughts are with his friends, comrades and colleagues who fought alongside Madiba over the course of a lifetime of struggle," he continued.
"Our thoughts are with the South African people who today mourn the loss of the one person who, more than any other, came to embody their sense of a common nationhood.
"Our thoughts are with the millions of people across the world who embraced Madiba as their own, and who saw his cause as their cause."
After Zuma's brief speech, the television screen showed a photograph of Mandela, and the national anthem played.
The presidency also posted a photograph of Mandela on its website with a quotation from the anti-apartheid struggle hero:
"What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead."