Freddie’s words washed over me ‘The sea is the largest self-cleansing mechanism in the universe. If the sea is 16 per cent clean and 84 per cent dirty, that 16 per cent is enough to cleanse the other 84. It will never work the other way around.’

What he said made sense to me. It just seemed right somehow and I did not feel the need to find the science in it all. I felt the life in his words.

Freddie and I met in Tietiesbaai. We both happened to stop at The Beach Camp for a coffee, as one does on a Monday in January. He was there with his family, by car. I had walked from Paternoster that morning along the beach, passing seagulls 
and seaweed, upside-down fishing boats on sabatical and a lone tractor. Oh, and a tortoise. Not a turtle. The smell and sound of the sea seeped into my muscles with messages of calming relaxation.

My journey was hardly of the travel-with-a-guide-under-the-arm variety and so I didn’t arrive as much as stumble upon the camp. One of the staff offered me some South American yerba mate and a coffee. (Luckily I had the tea first and could wash the taste away with the coffee.)

It was there, at a makeshift cable reel table overlooking the sea, that Freddie told me his story. He had been a security policeman during the apartheid regime. Some of what he shared with me on that day next to that sea would have curdled my blood had it not been for my resolve to remain objective. To listen. That was my role as storyteller. Freddie told some horrific stories of plots and schemes of hatred. And when the security police gave the government ‘permission’ to negotiate the “handing over” of power, Freddie’s world had to change. He was no longer needed. And what did a man with his skills do?

He became involved in cocaine trafficking and was very, very good at it, becoming the number one South African trafficker. He was a user too. But after years of that lifestyle something happened. He sought another way. Freddie found Jesus and sunk his teeth into religion.

Today he knows that apartheid was wrong, he said. As a soldier he never did. The euphoria he once found, sporadically, in drugs, he now finds in God. He does not believe that he needs to make up for his past, because his sins have been forgiven. How he lives his life today, is not out of guilt for yesterday. Instead, he now knows how to live a fulfilled life and he’s in the business of desalinating salt water. To add value, he goes around to schools and teaches kids about desalination, shows them how to grow their own vegetables. In this way, perhaps, he can teach them to respect life, to respect plants, the life form that gives life. He wants to share the respect he has regained for life.

The 84/16 concept gave me goosebumps and I felt respect for this man, who had moved on to become part of the 16 per cent that is now cleansing our country. It also got me thinking that his life is a powerful analogy for South Africa. It is calling us to action – we have some cleansing that needs doing!