On a sunny but cold morning, an ambulance took the anti-apartheid leader home from the hospital in the capital, Pretoria, where he had been since June 8 for what the government has described as a recurring lung infection.
President Jacob Zuma said in a statement Sunday that Mandela's condition "is at times unstable."
"His home has been reconfigured to allow him to receive intensive care there," the statement said. "The health care personnel providing care at his home are the very same who provided care to him in hospital. If there are health conditions that warrant another admission to hospital in future, this will be done."
There has been an outpouring of concern in South Africa and around the world for the transformative figure who led the tense shift from white rule to democracy two decades ago in a spirit of reconciliation. Mandela turned 95 on July 18.
Zuma had urged South Africans to accept that Mandela had grown old and frail, saying all they could do was pray for him. Well-wishers delivered flowers and messages of support to the hospital where he was being treated, and prayer sessions were held around the country. The government has released few details about Mandela's condition, citing patient confidentiality.
Mandela, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is feted around the world as a towering figure of reconciliation. Despite being jailed for 27 years for his prominent role in opposing white racist rule, Mandela was seemingly free of rancor on his release in 1990, becoming the unifying leader who steered South Africa through a delicate transition to all-race elections that propelled him to the presidency four years later.
The United Nations has recognized Mandela's birthday as an international day to honor themes of activism, democracy and responsibility embodied by the former leader.