Is the ‘Godfather of the West Rand’ still alive?
RALPH Haynes is alive and dead. He’s in South Africa and out of the country. He’s a cut-throat con-artist and the nicest guy you’ll ever meet. Depending on who you ask, you’ll get a different version of the man who has been controversially labelled the “Godfather of the West Rand”. But one thing is certain: there are a lot of people who want to find him.
His wife, Jacky, has spent the past seven years dealing with a police investigation that went nowhere, being placed under investigation herself and fearing she will never know what happened to her husband.
“I’ve never had the chance to grieve. I’ve been so involved in all of this nonsense going on around me that I’ve never dealt with what happened.”
The last time Haynes was seen was on January 21, 2011, climbing into a helicopter belonging to Middelburg businessman, Frikkie Lutskie.
Among those who witnessed this was Dawie Lotter, Haynes’ long-time friend and associate, and Jacky’s new partner.
Haynes had allegedly been contacted by Lutskie in the days leading up to his disappearance, the businessman asking Haynes for help assessing the value of some gold which he had acquired.
He had agreed to meet with Lutskie at the Kitty Hawk aerodrome on the outskirts of Pretoria that Friday, taking Lotter with him.
Lotter remembers the day – down to the smallest detail. He remembers buying two Energades at the airstrip’s cafeteria shortly before Lutskie landed his helicopter, how he had been told to hold Haynes’ drink while he went to speak privately with Lutskie.
“He liked to do business by himself. I thought they would do their one-on-one talking by themselves,” he remembers.
Haynes boarded the chopper, with Lutskie helping him to fix his seatbelt, and then the pair flew off. “Not a word to me. I’m standing with the two cold drinks there on the veranda.”
Lotter says this wasn’t totally uncommon, he wouldn’t often be privy to his friend’s meetings.
But he decided to wait, until he received a call at around 1.30pm from Haynes saying that he wouldn’t need transport back, as “everything had been sorted”.
That was the last time he would hear from Haynes, who he claims was unreachable after that phone call.
Jacky and her husband had plans that night, and when she was unable to reach him, she called Lotter to find out where he was.
A series of phone calls to all involved failed to locate him, though Jacky claims she contacted one of Haynes’ contacts, controversial businessman Zunaid Moti, who successfully traced his phone to a veld in Middelburg.
After reporting him missing to the police – including the officer investigating Haynes’ allegedly dodgy business dealings, Luke Enslin – Lotter and his crew went to check the veld in Middelburg. They found nothing, apart from some clothes that ultimately did not belong to Haynes.
When confronted, Lutskie had told investigators that upon landing his helicopter, he had given Haynes a bakkie to drive home, and that was the last he had seen of him.
Lotter is convinced that it would have been difficult for Haynes to drive such a vehicle, as he usually used automatic cars following the loss of his leg in a motorcycle accident.
“You wouldn’t catch him driving a Bantam bakkie,” says Lotter.
The bakkie was later found abandoned with broken windows near Bronkhorstspruit, but its understood there was no evidence that Haynes had been inside the vehicle.
Haynes’ disappearance entered the media spotlight, and his connection to Lutskie was widely reported. A 2013 piece in the Daily Maverick reported that in the build up to Haynes’ disappearance, Lutskie was set to pay him R400 000 to look into a suspected attempt on his life.