'South Africa will not go up in flames,' says Archbishop Tutu
Just hours after the news of Mandela's death, one of his veteran anti-apartheid comrades, former Archbishop of Cape Town Desmond Tutu, sought to assuage fears that the revered statesman's absence could revive some of the violent ghosts of apartheid.
To suggest that South Africa might go up in flames - as some have predicted - is to discredit South Africans and Madiba's legacy," Tutu said in a reassuring statement.
"The sun will rise tomorrow, and the next day and the next ... It may not appear as bright as yesterday, but life will carry on," Tutu said.
Many saw today's South Africa - the African continent's biggest economy but also one of the world's most unequal - still distant from being the "Rainbow Nation" ideal of social peace and shared prosperity that Mandela had proclaimed on his triumphant release from prison in 1990.
"I feel like I lost my father, someone who would look out for me. Already as a black person with no connections you are disadvantaged," said Joseph Nkosi, 36, a security guard from Alexandra township in Johannesburg.
Referring to Mandela by his clan name, he added: "Now without Madiba I feel like I don't have a chance. The rich will get richer and simply forget about us. The poor don't matter to them. Look at our politicians, they are nothing like Madiba."
Flags flew at half mast across the country and Zuma has announced a full state funeral for South Africa's first black president, who emerged from prison to help guide the country through bloodshed and turmoil to democracy.
Mandela rose from rural obscurity to challenge the might of white minority rule - a struggle that gave the 20th century one of its most respected and loved figures.
He was among the first to advocate armed resistance to apartheid in 1960 but was quick to preach reconciliation and forgiveness when the country's white minority began easing its grip on power 30 years later.
He was elected president in landmark all-race elections in 1994 after helping to steer the racially divided country towards reconciliation and away from civil war.
"His greatest legacy is that we are basically at peace with each other," F.W. de Klerk, the white Afrikaner president who released Mandela in 1990, told the BBC in an interview.
Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, an honour he shared with de Klerk.
In 1999, Mandela handed over power to younger leaders better equipped to manage a modern economy - a rare voluntary departure from power cited as an example to African leaders.
This made him an exception on a continent with a bloody history of long-serving autocrats and violent coups.
In retirement, Mandela shifted his energies to battling South Africa's AIDS crisis, a struggle that became personal when he lost his only surviving son to the disease in 2005.
Mandela's last major appearance on the global stage came in 2010 when he attended the championship match of the soccer World Cup hosted by South Africa.