JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - Mr Nelson Mandela's family spoke on Saturday of their 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," family spokesman Temba Matanzima told journalists in Johannesburg.
"His presence was like a baobab tree that provided a comforting shade that served as protection and security for us," he said, referring to the massive tree with its famously thick trunk that is sometimes used as a shelter.
"The pillar of the family is gone, just as he was away during that 27 painful years of imprisonment."
Mr Matanzima spoke of the family's "grave sadness" and described the departed statesman as a caring family leader who made time equally for people rich and poor, great and small.
And he praised Mr 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," Mr 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."