South Africans have begun a period of national mourning for anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, who died Thursday at the age of 95.

President Jacob Zuma said Friday that the nation will hold a series of memorials leading up to Mr. Mandela's burial in his hometown of Qunu on December 15.

On Thursday, President Zuma announced Mr. Mandela, the country's first black president, had "passed on peacefully" in the company of his family.

Dressed in black, Mr. Zuma said South Africa had "lost its greatest son and our people have lost a father."

"That is indeed the moment of our deepest sorrow. Yet it must also be the moment of our greatest determination. A determination to live as Madiba has lived, to strive as Madiba has strived and to not rest until we have realized his vision of a truly united South Africa, a peaceful and prosperous Africa, and a better world."

Crowds quickly gathered outside Mr. Mandela's home in Johannesburg, where people sang, danced, and paid their respects in the South African tradition.

South Africa will host a memorial service for Mr. Mandela at a Johannesburg stadium next Tuesday. His body will then lie in state for three days in Pretoria, while memorial services are held in all of the country's provinces.

Scores of world leaders and celebrities are expected to travel to South Africa to attend the services for Mr. Mandela, who was respected around the world for his activism.

The White House has not announced President Barack Obama's plans but U.S. news reports say he is expected to attend.

Mr. Mandela spent nearly three decades in prison for his role in fighting to end white minority rule and official discrimination against blacks in South Africa.

After his release, he emerged as a revered symbol of peace and reconciliation and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. The following year, he became South Africa's first black president.

Mr. Mandela, who contracted tuberculosis during his incarceration, was hospitalized repeatedly during the past several years, most recently for a recurring lung infection.