, Johannesburg December 6- Nelson Mandela’s Rainbow Nation awoke Friday to a future without its 95 year old founding father, his compatriots joining an upwelling of global mourning and celebration of his astonishing life.
The icon of South Africa’s anti apartheid struggle and a colossus of 20th century politics died late Thursday at his home in Johannesburg, surrounded by friends and family.
He had waged a long battle against lung infection.
Outside his home mourners, some in pyjamas, held an all night vigil, dancing, ululating, chanting and singing the songs of a struggle that Mandela devoted his life to winning.
“I did not come here to mourn. We are celebrating the life of a great man. A great unifier,” said Bobby Damon, who lives just a few streets away.
In Cape Town, Archbishop Desmond Tutu led an emotional early morning prayer, expressing a steely determination that Mandela’s vision of a South Africa for all creeds and colours shall not perish with him.
“Ultimately he would want us, South Africans, to be his memorial,” Tutu said, his eyes tightly shut in a prayer brimming over with emotion.
Hours earlier President Jacob Zuma announced Mandela’s death to the nation and the world in a live late-night broadcast.
“Our beloved Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the founding president of our democratic nation, has departed,” he said.
“Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father.”
Zuma announced that Mandela will receive a full state funeral, which is expected to be attended by dignitaries from around the world, and ordered flags to fly at half mast.
A special joint session of parliament was called, trading was to be temporarily halted on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and books of commemoration were opened at government buildings.
Meanwhile Mandela’s body was taken to 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria, in preparation for a laying in state.
From around the world his death brought foes Beijing and the Dalai Lama, Palestinians and Israel, Washington and Tehran together to pay their respects.
Barack Obama led the global roll call of commemoration, with America’s first black president paying tribute to a man who “took history in his hands and bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice”.
His death had long been expected, coming after a spate of hospitalisations with lung infections and three months of intensive care at home. But the announcement came as a shock nonetheless.
Mandela’s two youngest daughters were in London watching the premiere of his biopic “Long Walk to Freedom” when they were told of his death.