South African marks Nelson Mandela's first death anniversary
Graca Machel (bottom 3rd L), widow of former South African President Nelson Mandela, gives a speech before laying wreaths during the official commemoration ceremony marking his first death anniversary at the world's largest Mandela statue at the Union Buildings in Pretoria Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

South Africa is marking the first death anniversary of anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela with family, dignitaries, leaders and diplomats paying rich tributes.

Scores of people thronged the Freedom Park in Pretoria to commemorate Mandela's death.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate died in his Johannesburg home on 5 December last year at the age of 95.

"I know that he is smiling and happy among the family he chose to build," said his widow Graça Machel.

"On the day of his passing I was not able to think, I was numb... but looking back I can imagine him tall and proud, walking, and all of them rising to welcome him... I know Madiba is in good hands."

Thanking the South Africans for their support, she said: "I stand here today as a mother of two families. He was surrounded by family when he passed... his face had tranquillity and peace. When he left he said 'I leave you in peace and I want you to live in peace'."

Acting president Cyril Ramaphosa and ministers participated in the ceremony.

An interfaith prayer and a wreath-laying ceremony will also take place alongside several events which are to continue over the weekend.

A friendly cricket match dubbed Mandela Legacy Cup is also scheduled to take place between the country's national rugby and cricket teams.