"Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss," said President Zuma, in his national address. "His tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of the world. His humility, his compassion and his humanity earned him our love."
Mandela passed away on Dec. 5, 2013 at 8:50 p.m. local time, according to tonight's address.
"Our nation has lost its greatest son," Zuma said. "Our people have lost a father."
That sense of loss is echoed throughout the globe tonight, as Mandela's fight for freedom and peace extended far beyond his home country, and even as far as Dearborn.
On June 28, 1990, during a time when factories were closing and workers were losing wages and benefits, Mandela came to Dearborn with an inspiring message for blue-collar workers at the Ford River Rouge auto plant, the Motor City Muckraker reported.
“It is you who have made the United States of America a superpower, a leader of the world,” the then-71-year-old told workers. “I am a member of the UAW; I am your flesh and blood. I am your comrade.”
To see a photo slideshow of Mandela's visit to the Ford River Rouge plant, click here.