JOHANNESBURG – South Africans are preparing to bid their final farewell to former President Nelson Mandela.
The global icon died peacefully at his home in Houghton in northern Johannesburg just before 9pm on 5 December.
President Jacob Zuma announced his passing to the nation and the world just before midnight.
“Fellow South Africans, our beloved Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the founding President of our democratic nation, has departed.”
There has since been an outpouring of grief never seen before in the country.
But many are also celebrating the life of the country's first democratically elected president.
On Friday afternoon, Zuma outlined plans for the next few days of mourning and the final arrangements for Mandela’s funeral.
Government has declared tomorrow a day of national prayer and reflection.
Madiba’s remains will lie in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria from 11 to 13 December.
During that time, official memorial services will be held in all provinces and regions.
The official memorial service will be held at FNB Stadium in Nasrec on 10 December.
Madiba will be laid to rest in Qunu on 15 December.
There is a sombre stillness in Mandela's hometown of Qunu in the Eastern Cape.
Traffic officials have diverted motorists away from the stretch of road leading to Mandela’s home and military police can be seen outside the property.
Locals, many of whom still tend to cattle and sheep, are digesting the news.
One man says the country has lost a true hero.
“He was like a father and grandfather. He was like everything to me because he brought change in South Africa.”
Mourners throughout Gauteng have described Mandela as someone who brought out the best in his fellow South Africans.
There is now a solid wall of flowers closing off the street where Nelson Mandela lived in Houghton.
Mixed into the flowers are teddy bears, flags, photographs, paintings and pencil sketches.
Candles continue to burn on the pavement below.
Some people are lighting new candles and posing for photographs. But many are simply standing in front of the flower wall, frozen in thought, lost in reflection.
Joggers and cyclists are also stopping along their regular routes as small children flash the kind of smiles that would have melted Madiba’s heart.
Madiba’s Houghton home echoed with songs and prayers throughout the day and night on Friday as hundreds of people flocked to pay their last respects.
Crowds of mourners celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela outside his Houghton home on 6 December 2013. Picture: Craig Wynn/EWN.
Families brought their young children and even their pets to pay tribute to the country's first democratically elected leader.
People from all walks of life were united in celebrating Madiba's life.
Most of the people who visited the home said Madiba was the greatest leader of all time and his life had touched them in so many different ways.
In Pretoria a group of people has gathered at the Union Buildings where A World War memorial plinth has become the centre for floral tributes and messages to Madiba.
These men told Eyewitness News they are remembering Nelson Mandela for his contribution to South Africa.
“We are not crying, we are celebrating his life.”
“Mandela was a freedom fighter, a unifier and the best person in the world.”
“We can’t ignore that he fought for liberation.”
It is at the Union Buildings that South Africa’s first black president’s body will lie in state for three days before being transported to his final resting place.
One woman said the best way to remember Mandela is to keep the rainbow nation dream alive.
Another woman said she feels like she has lost a parent.
Meanwhile, the community of Alexandra has urged the country's young people to use Madiba's humble beginnings as the motivation that they can also be great leaders of the future.
Yesterday, the community gathered at the house where Mandela first stayed when he moved to Johannesburg from Qunu in the 1940s.
Madiba rented a one-room house in the township while he was studying at Wits University.
The yard where he lived has been named the Mandela Yard and will be the place where Alexandra residents will gather for the next week to pay their respects and celebrate his life.
Hundreds of people gathered at the Grand Parade in Cape Town yesterday for a special interfaith service honouring Mandela’s legacy.
A man who was at the Grand Parade on the day Mandela made his first historic speech shortly after being released from prison in 1990 says the late statesman has left behind an unforgettable legacy.
Yesterday morning, Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille broke down in tears during a heartfelt speech about Mandela at the Civic Centre.
She said Mandela gave so much and said South Africans must now let him rest.
“In the end we have to stop thinking just about ourselves. After this man gave so much, we now have to let him rest.”
As De Lille reached the end of her speech, she started crying and couldn’t finish.
She said goodbye to Madiba, took her seat and was consoled by her colleagues.
Meanwhile, former president FW De Klerk said Mandela's death is South Africa's moment of truth.
Addressing the media in the Cape Town city centre on Friday, De Klerk said he has nothing but fond memories of Madiba and highlighted his sharp wit, keen sense of humour and his humility.
Meanwhile, some Paarl residents say they will not be mourning the death of the former statesman, but will instead celebrate the legacy he has left behind.
Scores of people gathered at the ANC regional branch on Friday, where they held a prayer session following the news of Mandela’s death.
They then proceeded to the Drakenstein Correction facility, previously known as the Victor Verster Prison, where Madiba spent the last two years of his 27 year imprisonment before he was released in 1990.
Some wiped away tears as they sang songs and placed wreaths in front of the statue of the international peace icon at the entrance of the building.
One Paarl resident says that while South Africa has lost its father, his memory and what he stood for will live on.
Meanwhile, 160 places of tribute, like sports grounds and community centres, have been activated across the province.
Mourners from across KwaZulu-Natal continue to gather at two sites associated with Madiba, a monument at his capture site near Howick and a statue at Ohlange High School near Durban where he cast his vote in 1994.
Steady rain has prevented most outdoor gatherings so those grieving the loss of Mandela continue to stream into memorial centres.
Bouquets, bunches of flowers and candles emblazoned with his image have been laid in tribute to the elder statesman.
The City of Durban held a prayer meeting at City Hall and opened a condolences book affording people to mourn his passing.
The provincial government is set to announce its program of mourning to coincide with national plans ahead of Mandela’s funeral.