“By the time he died on Thursday evening, he was not on a life-support machine and had been breathing on his own,” the Sunday Times weekly reported.
The anti-apartheid champion who became South Africa’s first black president had been repeatedly hospitalised with lung troubles in recent years and had often had to rely on artificial ventilation.
The Sunday Times said grandson Mandla had been urgently summoned from the village of Mvezo in the Eastern Cape province to his grandfather’s bedside.
Also present were senior members of the ruling African National Congress that Mandela once led, and religious leaders who comforted family and friends.
According to the City Press weekly, close family had been allowed into his room in twos and threes for a final private moment.
“Those in the house speak of an overwhelming sadness that engulfed it,” said an online version of the newspaper.
It added the ex-president had not spoken a word for months.
The Sunday Times quoted Bantu Holomisa, one of the last people to have seen Mandela, as saying he had received a call to say the president’s condition had worsened.
“I went straight to see him in his room. I was sad to see that his situation, from the last time I saw him, had deteriorated very badly,” the politician said.
Holomisa spent over an hour with Mandela and left the house about 90 minutes before the statesman was declared dead.
“The family was very strong, but the mood was sombre. The toughest moment came when the military arrived to collect Madiba’s body around midnight,” the newspaper quoted someone who was there as saying.
“When they came down from his room upstairs with his lifeless body, followed by Mandla, it started to sink in that Madiba was gone.”