Stars have paid tribute to Nelson Mandela after he passed away yesterday (05.12.13).

The South African political activist and former President died aged 95 at his home in Johannesburg, South Africa, surrounded by his family.

Mandela was for millions a symbol of hope and freedom for his battle to overcome apartheid in South Africa and win equal rights for black people, which saw him jailed between 1962 and 1990.

Current South African president Jacob Zuma broke the news of Mandela's death, saying: ''Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father,'' moving his worldwide audience to pay tribute to the political icon.

Morgan Freeman, who played the South African leader in the 2009 film 'Invictus', led the heartfelt tributes describing him as ''a saint to many, a hero to all who treasure liberty, freedom and the dignity of humankind''.

The 76-year-old actor added: ''As we remember his triumphs, let us, in his memory, not just reflect on how far we've come, but on how far we have to go.

''Madiba may no longer be with us, but his journey continues on with me and with all of us.''

Music mogul Simon Cowell tweeted: ''So sad to hear about Nelson Mandela. Rest in peace.''

Black Eyed Peas singer Fergie wrote: ''Meeting Nelson Mandela at his house in Johannesburg was a truly memorable moment in life for me. He was an angel.''

Actor Samuel L. Jackson said: ''Never met a better person in my life than Nelson Mandela. My sympathy to his family & his country.''

Superstar Rihanna paid her respects via Instagram, writing: ''One of the greatest men who's ever lived!!! #Legend. We will never forget the things this man has taught us, and we will never truly comprehend the level of strength that it took for him to endure many of his years!! Thank you #Mandela (sic)''

She added on Twitter: ''#NelsonMandela you made your people proud!! We'll always love you for it! (sic)''

Retired footballer David Beckham took to Facebook last night to post a picture of himself and the former South African President - whom he met before an England vs South Africa friendly fixture in 2003 - along with the words: ''Thank you.''

He added on his page: ''My heart goes out to the people in South Africa and Mr Mandela's family. We have lost a true gentleman and a courageous human being. It was truly an honour to have known a man who had genuine love for so many people. Rest in peace (sic)''

Political leaders were also quick to offer their sympathies, with UK Prime Minister David Cameron saying: ''A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a hero of our time.''

US President Barack Obama gave a TV address, in which he said Nelson had ''achieved more than could be expected of any man.''

He added: ''We've lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with.

''I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example set by Nelson Mandela.''