By Ian Swanson and Rebecca Shabad - 12/05/13 05:32 PM EST
Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid revolutionary who became the first black South African president after 27 years in prison, died Thursday at the age of 95.
Mandela died in Johannesburg, current President Jacob Zuma announced there just before midnight on Friday.
“What made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves. And in him, we saw so much of ourselves,” Zuma said.
"He is now resting. He is now at peace," Zuma continued. "Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father."
But the African leader known worldwide as a symbol against oppression had repeatedly battled back from illness.
Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa's president in May 1994. He served one term, and stepped down in 1999.
Mandela twice spoke to joint sessions of Congress, months after his release from prison in 1990 and four years later, after he had been elected president.
The first address marked only the third time a private citizen had addressed a joint session. Mandela joined Polish civil rights leader Lech Wałęsa and the Marquis de Lafayette.