06 December 2013 - 03:55 By Staff Reporters and Agencies

"This is the moment of our deepest sorrow. Our nation has lost its greatest son," President Jacob Zuma said last night following the death of the world's most loved statesman, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

Mandela died in the company of his family at around 8.50pm at his Houghton home in Johannesburg.

"He is now resting. He is now at peace,'' Zuma said.

''Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father."

Mandela had become increasingly frail in recent years and had been in and out of hospital, battling serious respiratory infection and pneumonia.

"Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss," said Zuma.

Mandela went underground after the ANC was banned in 1960. He was arrested and sentenced in 1964 to life imprisonment for plotting the overthrow of the government.

He served the bulk of his time on Robben Island, where he became a symbol of apartheid injustice.

"His tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of the world,'' Zuma said.

''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 also announced that Mandela will receive a state funeral. All flags at government buildings will fly half-mast from this morning until his funeral.

Last night, US President Barack Obama delivered a moving tribute to Mandeda at the White House.

''Mandela gave me hope in life. I will do my best to always learn from him," Obama said.

"We will never see the likes of Mandela again. Mandela took history into his own hands and we should always remember the contribution he made to this world.''

South Africans expressed shock at Madiba's death.

Scores of neighbours gathered outside his Houghton home as Zuma announced his passing.

Some huddled around a car to listen to Zuma's announcement.

Many of them were in their pyjamas.

"I am shocked ... I can't believe it," said eight-year-old Riaaz Muhammad.

Dominic Sadie, 19, said: "If it wasn't for Mandela, I wouldn't be chilling with my black friends. I love him."

A mother who came to Mandela's house with her two daughters broke down and cried.

"I am glad he is in a better place but I hope South Africans will be able to deal with his death," she said.

His charisma, generosity of spirit, and an unwavering commitment to the wellbeing of his fellow humans, earned him love and acclaim across the globe.

It earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and as an elder statesman statesman he continued to champion the cause of reconciliation, peace and human rights, speaking out strongly on issues including Aids and armed conflict.