In a somber statement on South African national television on Thursday night, Zuma said Mandela had "departed" and was "at peace". "Our nation has lost its greatest son."
Mandela, who led South Africa's transition from white-minority rule in the 1990s after nearly three decades in prison, was one of the towering political figures of the 20th century.
Mandela served as president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, and was the first South African president to be elected in a fully representative democratic election.
After years of resistance against apartheid rule in South Africa, Mandela was arrested in 1962. He was sentenced to life in prison, where he served over 27 years. He spent many of those years on Robben Island.
Following his release from prison on February 11, 1990, Mandela led the African National Congress party in the negotiations that led to multi-racial democracy in 1994. As president, he frequently gave priority to reconciliation. He left office in 1999 after serving one term as president.
In South Africa, Mandela is often known as Madiba, his clan name, or as tata, which means father. Mandela received more than 250 awards over four decades, including the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize.
Seen as South Africa’s moral compass, the highly revered leader announced his retirement from public life in 2004, but continued to make a few public appearances.