Mandela urged reconciliation after he was released from jail and negotiated a peaceful end to apartheid. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 together with F.W. de Klerk, the last white president.
"When I grew up he was a terrorist," Clive Zulberg, 42, the chief executive officer of a security company who brought his three young sons to pay their respects at the house. "In school, I learned that he was a prisoner and when I started my business he was president and a great leader."
Mandela will be given a state funeral, details of which are still to be announced. His body was moved from his Johannesburg home to a military hospital in Pretoria, the state-owned South African Broadcasting Corp. reported, without citing anyone.
After a single five-year term as president, Mandela became a champion in the fight against AIDS, disclosing that one of his sons died from the disease. He retired from public life in 2004 and was last seen publicly at the soccer World Cup in Johannesburg three years ago. He was hospitalized four times in the past year.
"We have lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this earth," said President Barack Obama, who called Zuma to express condolences.
At Mandela's Johannesburg home, people laid flowers, lit candles and placed teddy bears next to a barricade surrounding a corner of the property. In Soweto, people signed a 1.5 meter- long (4.9 feet) portrait of Mandela hanging outside the museum, and placed red roses and a scarf in the colors of South Africa's flag near the entrance. About 20 members of the ruling African National Congress sang and danced in a circle.
The news of Mandela's death came on the same night as the London premiere of "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom," a film documenting his struggle against apartheid. Mandela's two youngest daughters who were attending the premiere with guests such as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William and Kate, left the theater during the screening when told of their father's death, the Nelson Mandela Foundation said in an e mailed statement.