Mandela family friend Bantu Holomisa on Thursday said he would remember former president Nelson Mandela for all his great human characteristics.
“I will remember Madiba for all the things that made him human, despite the cloak of greatness,” the United Democratic Movement leader said in a statement.
“Things such as his sense of humour, his kindness and his sincerity.”
President Jacob Zuma announced that Nelson Mandela, 95, died at his Houghton, Johannesburg, home on Thursday.
“He passed on peacefully in the company of his family around 20.50pm on December 5,” Zuma said.
“He is now resting, he is now at peace. Our nation has lost its greatest son.”
Holomisa was one of the people reported to have arrived at the Mandela home earlier in the day for an urgent family meeting.
He said he questioned how he would measure Mandela's greatness.
“I ask this because it is the word we use to describe Nelson Mandela - ‘great’. He is a great statesman, a great negotiator, a great liberation fighter, a great leader, and so on,” said Holomisa.
He said Mandela was courageous and had great charisma.
“He could instantly connect with almost every person who crossed his path, from the rural hut-dweller, right up to the corporate executives, irrespective of their status or preconceptions he would inspire them,” said Holomisa.
He said over the years he and Mandela had developed a father-and-son relationship.
“He honoured me with his confidence in making me responsible for organising various family events,” said Holomisa.
“To me, he was a mentor and invaluable source of advice and wisdom.”
He said it was the man, not the legend, who reached out and touched the lives of millions.
“The legend will live for as long as humans record history, but the man, Nelson Mandela, had to leave us eventually.”
He said he would miss and weep for Mandela and was praying for the Mandela family.
“Farewell, may you rest in peace. Your absence leaves a hole in my heart that I cannot fill,” he said.
“I can only cherish the memories and be thankful that I had the privilege to know you. I consider myself one of the fortunate few who have been trusted, by an icon such as yourself, with those things you held dearest. Lala ngoxolo Tata (rest in peace),” he said.
Zuma said flags around the country would be flown at half mast from Friday until his funeral.
“Our beloved Madiba will be accorded a state funeral. I order that all flags be lowered to half mast from tomorrow 6 December and to remain at half mast till after the funeral as we gather to pay our last respects,” he said. - Sapa