The announcement of Mandela's death was made by President Jacob Zuma
South Africa's first black president and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela has died at the age of 95.Mr Mandela led South Africa's transition from white-minority rule in the 1990s, after 27 years in prison for his political activities.
He had been receiving intensive medical care at home for a lung infection after spending three months in hospital. Announcing the news on South African national TV, President Jacob Zuma said Mr Mandela was at peace.
"Our nation has lost its greatest son," Mr Zuma said.
"Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss."
Mr Zuma said Mr Mandela - who is known affectionately by his clan name, Madiba - would receive a full state funeral, and flags would be flown at half-mast.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate was one of the world's most revered statesmen after preaching reconciliation despite being imprisoned for 27 years.
He had rarely been seen in public since officially retiring in 2004. He made his last public appearance in 2010, at the football World Cup in South Africa. His fellow campaigner against apartheid, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, said he was "not only an amazing gift to humankind, he made South Africans and Africans feel good about being who we are. He made us walk tall. God be praised."
Mr Mandela's body will be moved to a mortuary in the capital, Pretoria, and the funeral is likely to take place next Saturday. Mr Zuma said in his statement that, "what made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves".
"Fellow South Africans, Nelson Mandela brought us together and it is together that we will bid him farewell."
Tributes have come in from around the world: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was "a giant for justice and a down-to-earth human inspiration"."Many around the world were greatly influenced by his selfless struggle for human dignity, equality and freedom. He touched our lives in deeply personal ways."
President Obama said Mr Mandela achieved more than could be expected of any man.
"He no longer belongs to us - he belongs to the ages," he said, adding that Mr Mandela "took history in his hands and bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice".
Mr Obama, the first black president of the United States, said he was one of the millions who drew inspiration from Mr Mandela's life. He has ordered that the White House flag be flown at half-mast.
The Elders - a group of global leaders set up by Mr Mandela to pursue peace and human rights - said they "join millions of people around the world who were inspired by his courage and touched by his compassion".
UK Prime Minister David Cameron said "a great light has gone out in the world".
Earlier this year, Mr Mandela spent nearly three months in hospital with a recurring lung infection.
He was moved to his home in the Houghton suburb of Johannesburg in September, where he continued to receive intensive care.
He was arrested for sabotage and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964, serving most of his sentence on Robben Island.
Mr Mandela, who had been awarded the Nobel Prize in 1993 jointly with Mr de Klerk, was elected South Africa's first black president. He served a single term, stepping down in 1999. After leaving office, he became South Africa's highest-profile ambassador, campaigning against HIV/Aids and helping to secure his country's right to host the 2010 football World Cup.
He was also involved in peace negotiations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and other countries in Africa and elsewhere.
Known as "The Great Father" to South Africans; they will remember the man who brought an end to apartheid and delivered the nation from the brink of civil war. He had been in and out of hospital in recent years and had become increasingly frail but many South Africans had continued to express their unreadiness to lose him.
As he did in life, his passing has brought unity amongst South Africans as black and white speak of their love for him. Many will be drawing on that same spirit for strength, that "Madiba magic" over the next few days and weeks as the nation, left with a great burden of grief, honor Mr Mandela's legacy, mourn his passing and celebrate his life.
1918 Born in the Eastern Cape
1943 Joined African National Congress
1956 Charged with high treason, but charges dropped after a four-year trial
1962 Arrested, convicted of incitement and leaving country without a passport, sentenced to five years in prison
1964 Charged with sabotage, sentenced to life
1990 Freed from prison
1993 Wins Nobel Peace Prize
1994 Elected first black president
1999 Steps down as leader
2001 Diagnosed with prostate cancer
2004 Retires from public life
2005 Announces his son has died of an HIV/Aids-related illness