Johannesburg - The two days since the passing of former president Nelson Mandela have not been easy for his family, spokesman Themba Mathanzima said on Saturday.
“The previous two days were not easy for the family... we welcome prayers and messages of support from here and beyond.”
Mathanzima spoke of the Mandela family's sadness at losing a humble, caring man they said was a moral guide not only for their clan but for people around the world.
"Tata (father) is gone," he told journalists. "His presence was like a baobab tree that provided a comforting shade that served as protection and security for us.”
"The pillar of the family is gone, just as he was away during that 27 painful years of imprisonment."
Matanzima spoke of the family's "grave sadness" and described Mandela as a caring family leader who made time equally for people rich and poor, great and small.
And he praised Mandela for remaining humble despite having attained the status of international icon.
"We have lost a great man, a son of the soil, whose greatness in our family was in the simplicity of his nature," Matanzima said.
He thanked South Africans and the rest of the world for their messages of love and support.
"Yes, it has not been easy for the last two days. And it won't be pleasant in the days to come," the spokesman said.
"But with the support we are receiving from here and beyond ... all will be well for the family.
"In our hearts and souls he will always be with us."
He said Mandela was not only a South African citizen but a global citizen.
Mandela believed in the value of education and taught the family that a life lived for others was a life well-lived, said Mathanzima.
Mandela died at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg, on Thursday.
A memorial service will be held at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on Tuesday, and he will be buried on December 15 at Qunu, in the Eastern Cape, where he grew up. - Sapa, AFP