In his keynote address however, he said that "everyone has had a Mandela moment" and added that the anti-apartheid icon was "one of a kind... a fearless freedom fighter who refused to allow the brutality of the apartheid state to stand in way of the struggle for the liberation of his people."
Zuma went on to announce that he was renaming the Union Buildings in Pretoria, where Mr Mandela will lie in state for three days, as the Mandela Amphitheatre.
"I have the honour today, to announce, that the Union Buildings Amphitheatre, where Madiba was inaugurated as President in 1994, and where his body will lie in state, will, with effect from today, be called the Nelson Mandela Amphitheatre. This is a fitting tribute to a man who transformed the Union Buildings from a symbol of racism and repression to one of peace, unity, democracy and progress," Zuma said.
U.S. President Barack Obama meanwhile received loud applause and described Mr Mandela as a "giant of history", the last great liberator of the 20th Century.
He said: "It is hard to eulogise any man... how much harder to do so for a giant of history, who moved a nation towards justice. We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. While I will always fall short of Madiba, he makes me want to be a better man."
On his way to the podium, Mr Obama shook hands with Cuban President Raul Castro.
Share your memories of Mandela and light a candle for him on his profile at www.remembered.co.za.
Image: © Getty
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