When Joburg celebrated its Ideal Org opening in November 2003, the elation among South African field was palpable.The then-Joburg OT Committee (some 30 able-bodied, upstat beings) were on fire and a force to be reckoned with. Many people were joining staff, Div 6 activities were humming and people were coming into the org in droves. It was probably the best time for Scientology in South Africa since the 60s.
The agreement after the opening was unanimous. “Why stop here? Let’s take this puppy all the way!: We were going for Saint Hill Size! And so the already frenzied pace was stepped up a notch. Everyone pulled together – The staff worked like demons with strong support from a dedicated field. Everyone working in unison towards a common goal. It was a heady time and everyone was determined to make it happen.
And then it happened! In March 2005 Joburg Org won the Birthday Game AND went Saint Hill size in the same year. We had made it! The Universe Corps arrived to much fanfare. Staff were going into session, public were being serviced and the org was doing well financially, although the staff pay scene was glossed over but it was better than it had been before.
And so it continued until mid 2005 when the org started slipping into insolvency – not hectic at first but definitely on the slope. And then the 2007 basics evolution hit. And everything changed.
Individual book commissions were cancelled. The Universe Corps left the building. Staff contracts were coming to an end and not being renewed. Morale was slipping badly. The previously effective OT Committee was split into two teams – a local JBG Org Committee and a “National OT Committee” (apparently another “bright idea” of Ken Krieger) – effectively destroying what was a very successful action.
Very soon, the org was struggling financially with back-bills piling up and no money to pay them. Posts were left unmanned and the CF system which had taken 100’s of hours getting it into PT fell into total disarray. For the public, it was becoming impossible to get into session owing to the preference of servicing foreign PC’s who were paying big money badly needed as a “quick fix” solution. The org was being run on a “hey you” Org Board and the Sea Org were bypassing into the org more and more. Everyone on a course in the academy was stopped in their tracks and ordered onto the basics. Jobug Org’s heydays had come to an end.
The point to all of this is that from around from the time of the org opening in November 2003 until mid to late 2005 Joburg Org enjoyed a period of expansion and prosperity. It was awesome while it lasted, but it soon became apparent that the Ideal Org model was not sustainable. By 2007 the state of Joburg Org was living, glaring proof of this.
And so this brings us to the newest Ideal Org in South Africa – Pretoria.
Pretoria org is 46 years old, having opened its doors to the public in 1968.
Despite the fact that the larger metropolitan area of Pretoria and surrounds boasts a population close to 3 million, Pretoria Org has never particularly been a big org. Certainly nowhere near the size of Joburg. The average staff compliment was between 10-15 people – this was day and foundation combined. .
After the announcement that Pretoria was to be the next Ideal Org, it soon became clear that the bulk of the funding would have to come from the Joburg field since Pretoria simply didn’t have the numbers. Many Joburg public were frustrated that THEY were being expected to help raise funds for Pretoria (the “Ideal Org Alliance” had now been born) having just funded their own org and the Braamfontein Test Centre.
Resentment was not openly expressed to Management but the rumblings were loud and clear -“how the hell are we going to pull this off”? And so the fundraising and “over the ramparts activity” began again. And it carried on. And on. And on. In the end, a very unusual solution was dreamed up by a certain few (full story on that will be revealed in due course). And ultimately, Pretoria finally became an Ideal Org in 2013. Sort of.
The opening of the Pretoria Org took place on the 23rd February 2013. Contrary to the Church’s PR statement of “thousands of people” people attending the opening, people who were actually there estimated no more than 700 attendees – certainly no more than 1000 – including staff. This was the first warning bell. This figure was half the number that attended Joburg’s opening 10 years earlier. After all the hard work and sacrifice of so many, David Miscavige decided not to pitch for the opening with no explanation to the public for why he didn’t see fit to attend – another warning bell.
The Pretoria field lacked the combined staff/public drive that allowed Joburg to experience at least a period of success. The org burst out of the gates with a limp.
Less than a month after the opening, a picture of the Pretoria academy appeared on Mike Rinder’s blog. In comparison to the above picture of the Joburg academy in 2004, this one speaks a thousand words (we added our own little twist). Yet another warning bell.
Several emails have been sent out stating percentage increases in production (number of new public reached is 600% greater, etc.) Outside of those emails the visible scene is that the org is no bigger than it was in its old building. Now with the costs associated with a massive building.
It is a simple thing to claim “double the expansion” if one person was on course and then two more arrived. A fanfare announcement was recently made of an anti-drug event held at the org for 65 non-Scientologists. While impressive sounding, this hardly contributes towards the real stats of an org – auditors made and happy PC’s. Yet more warning bells.
And then just 5 months after the opening, GATII preparations were in full swing. All Ideal Orgs including Pretoria were ordered to send a compliment of staff to Flag for training.
With a very new Ideal Org in its infancy PLUS the advent of the “greatest event in Scientology ever” (GATII) one would think the good news emanating from Pretoria would be plentiful.
Instead, this is the promo that gets sent out to public – yet another picture of an empty academy with what would seem to be the ONLY student on the new GATII Student Hat course. :
And then there is their facebook page. It’s stated claim is to “keep you updated on it’s (Pretoria Org’s) expansion”. The page was last updated 24th December 2013 – more than a month ago. The people following the page numbers at 285. And the stats page of people visiting, talking about and reading the facebook page speaks for itself:
Other interesting data on Pretoria Ideal Org is as follows:
- Francois Groenewald, one of the GATII Supervisors who returned from Flag after his training, left staff after his wife was threatened with a declare for not wanting to leave her job at the Corbetts. (His story has already appeared on this blog). He had to pay for his own air-ticket to get back to South Africa as the org could not afford a return flight for him.
- Simone Licht, supposed to return as the Survival Rundown Supervisor, is still at Flag. After she completed her GATII training, she was kept at Flag to do her full basics line-up. She is reportedly now on History of Man. She has been at Flag since May 2013.
- Yet another GATII trained Supervisor, David Goldberg, has not been seen for a while and would seem to to be missing in action.
- Another GATII trainee, Sipho Dlamini, a non-Scientologist at the time of being recruited for staff, was sent to Flag for GATII training and has not been seen since.
- Yet another GATII trainee, Thinus Jacobz (son of ED Willem and LC Marianna) returned home to spend Christmas with his family and has now returned back to Flag to complete his GATII training.
- Pretoria org has only one single-hatted auditor (Paul) on foundation staff. Other than this, the Tech Sec Day, C/S Day and Snr C/S Day double-hat as auditors.
- The org is battling financially. CSI (Church of Scientology International – the REAL owners of the property) are paying the rates and taxes as the org cannot afford to. Based on how little delivery this org is doing, it is doubtful they are managing to pay their bills, and there is a high likelihood that just like Joburg, this org is already insolvent.
- The org is not bustling with people. Very few public are on service and most of the offices/rooms and course rooms are not being used. One student reported having to switch on lights and request the air-conditioning be switched on so that the room could be used.
- One public visiting the org recently reported than in the hour he was on the premises, he saw exactly 4 staff – receptionist, a supervisor and two others huddled in an office having a meeting of some kind. The coffee shop was completely unmanned.
- One of the reasons given for the chosen location of the org was due to the surrounding foreign embassies and the hopes that this would attract Embassy Dignitaries. This has not happened. One lady who worked for a Govt Dept (Foreign Affairs) briefly joined staff in the DSA office, but has since blown. There has certainly not been any major influx of embassy dignitaries into the org.
- An MAA from Flag told a Joburg public the reason for the recent arrival of the new Mission and SO Management team was due to the fact that “Joburg org is not doing well and PRETORIA IS FAILING”.
- At the time of the opening, Pretoria boasted a staff compliment of approximately 70 people. Today, just 11 months later, the staff numbers have dwindled down to around 30 – less than half of the staff are left.
- Joburg Org lost it Saint Hill size status many years ago. To all intents and purposes, this org is bankrupt. Since 2005 it has lost more than 100 staff and they owe the City of Johannesburg in the region of R750,000 in unpaid lights & water. There are refund requests that have not been honoured despite policy stating that such requests should be handled IMMEDIATELY.
- Braamfontein Test Centre is a failure see our article on this. Joburg’s Life Improvement Centre: a Barren Wasteland
- Pretoria Org is in trouble. Grossly understaffed, not delivering nearly enough to keep the doors open and in less than a year after becoming an “Ideal Org” is having to be bailed out financially.
And now there is a MAJOR push to get Joburg North and the rest of South Africa done? Really? .
To cap it all, public are expected to pay for and attend a seminar this weekend so that they can be convinced how, despite the failure of the Joburg, Braamfontein and Pretoria projects have proved to be, it’s “really going to work this time” and we will have an AO in 2015.