|File photo taken on Feb. 3, 2005, shows former South African President Nelson Mandela waves to audience of his speech on Trafagar Square in London, Britain. Nelson Mandela has died, according to South African President. (Xinhua/Cheng Min)
JOHANNESBURG, Dec. 6 (Xinhua) -- Former South African president Nelson Mandela has died at the age of 95 Thursday, President Jacob Zuma announced in a televised speech to the nation.
"Our beloved Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the founding President of our democratic nation has departed," Zuma said.
The president said that Mandela passed on peacefully in the company of his family around 20:50 p.m. local time (1850 GMT) on Dec. 5.
"He is now resting. He is now at peace," Zuma said, "Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father."
"Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss," he said, "His tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of the world. "
"His humility, his compassion, and his humanity earned him their love. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Mandela family. To them we owe a debt of gratitude."
Zuma said "This is the moment of our deepest sorrow. Our nation has lost its greatest son," adding "Yet, what made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves."
"As we gather to pay our last respects, let us conduct ourselves with the dignity and respect that Madiba personified," he said.
Zuma said that as people gather, wherever they are in the country and wherever they are in the world, they should recall the values for which Mandela fought.
"Let us reaffirm his vision of a society in which none is exploited, oppressed or dispossessed by another," he said.
He also urged South Africans to commit themselves to strive together - sparing neither strength nor courage - to build a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.
Zuma also announced a state funeral for Mandela and ordered all national flags to be lowered to half-mast starting Dec. 6 until after the funeral.
Mandela, who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, had battled health problems in recent months, including a recurring lung infection that led to numerous hospitalizations.
Mandela was released from hospital in early September following an 85-day stay for a recurring lung infection, the result of his longtime imprisonment during the apartheid times.
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