JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - Nelson Mandela's grandson expressed gratitude for the global outpouring of support since the 95-year-old's death, saying his family had been "overwhelmed" by the heartfelt tributes.
"The messages we have received since last night have heartened and overwhelmed us," said Mr Mandla Mandela in a statement, the first public comment from the former president's family since his death.
"I am sincerely grateful for the national and international support that our family received during Madiba's long health challenges."
"All that I can do is thank God that I had a grandfather who loved and guided all of us in the family," said Mr Mandla, who is chief of the remote village of Mvezo where Mandela, South Africa's first black president, was born in 1918.
Mandela's death late on Thursday unleashed a flood of emotional tributes across the world, with US President Barack Obama ordering flags to fly at half-mast for the "profoundly good" man and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hailing the anti-apartheid hero as a "true Gandhian".
Mr Mandla added: "He is an embodiment of strength, struggle and survival, principles that are cherished by humanity.
"As a grandfather, we have all known him as a kind-hearted, generous and wise person who was always prepared to offer us advice on how to be good members of our communities."
Mr Mandla had been due to appear in court on Friday in the Eastern Cape to answer charges of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and pointing a firearm during a road incident in October.
The hearing was delayed until December 12. It is the latest court drama to hit Mandla, who has been embroiled in legal dramas over bigamy and grave tampering in a bitter family feud.