'Red Tie Guy', who charmed SA during Obama visit, dies

Cape Town - Mikhail Hendricks, otherwise known as the "Red Tie Guy", who charmed television viewers during a 2013 speech by then-US president Barack Obama in Cape Town, has died.

Friends were stunned as news of his sudden death spread on Friday, and did not want to say too much, out of respect for his grieving family.

"But I will say, he was a great person, very genuine, always positive," fellow Stellenbosch University student Daniel Wilcox said.

Hendricks was in his final year as an undergraduate in the law faculty, and was known for his passion for constitutional law and equality.

The university recently put together a video about the Amicus Bursary that Hendricks received, in which he retraces his roots.

In the video, he shows his humble home in Mitchells Plain, and tells of the gangsterism around him when he was growing up. 

He explains that he wants to be part of the constitutional development of South Africa, which he believes can change the lives of South Africans.

Funding for the bursary is provided by former law students.

Hendricks was matric pupil at the Cape Academy for Maths, Science and Technology when he was spotted grinning broadly behind Obama as the US president delivered a speech at the University of Cape Town in July 2013. He was 18 at the time.

He told the Daily Maverick afterwards: "It is my belief that if we make young South Africans more aware of how the Constitution works, what it gives them and expects of them, we will have more proud South Africans and young people who will not choose to be indifferent to the struggles of their fellow individuals and communities.”

Mikhail Hendricks with his red tie on during former US president Barack Obama's speech in Cape Town in 2013. (Screenshot)

The university confirmed that a student and resident of the Goldfields Residence had died.

"The passing of any student always comes as a great shock and we are devastated by the implications for our society," said Dr Birgit Schreiber, senior director: student affairs. 

"The loss of a young life is terrible for everyone involved and our community is shaken to the core. He was a role model for many students and an active member of our student communities."

The university sent its condolences to his family and offered support for them, as well as his fellow students.

A memorial service is planned for next week.