And so our story continues……….
I last left off when the basics had hit town in 2007. The relentless push on this was a whole new level of insane. It was evident that, once again, virtually every single staff and Sea Org member was being ripped off post to sell the basics – again, an “all hands” frenzy which contributed further to destabilizing the org. Not only were we being hounded by our own local reg’s from the org and CLO, but we also had to contend with all-night calls from the likes of Flag, Anzo and Saint Hill.
By this stage, our company had moved to premises relatively close to the org and I am not exaggerating when I say someone from the CLO or the org arrived at our offices DAILY pushing the basics – no appointment or forewarning, just the sudden appearance of a Sea Org member in front of your desk with an arrogant “you will see me now and be regged” attitude. Even after we bought the package, the regging continued – requests that we buy further packages for “donations to those who couldn’t afford them” – and then there was the library campaign – and on it went.
Joburg Org had now been in “fundraising mode” for more than 8 years. First, the fundraising for the new org, then a short period of relief, followed by virtual weekly IAS fundraising for the 3rd and 4th Dynamic campaigns, and some fundraising started on Joburg Public to donate towards purchasing the Cape Town Ideal Org. Concurrent with this, it was announced we needed to have a Test Centre in town, and so the Johannesburg field were hit yet again with relentless fundraising events.
The Braamfontein Test Centre was an interesting cycle. Public were “sold” on the idea that because the premises were opposite the Witwatersrand University, it would be perfectly situated to attract “upstat” students (thus literate) and we could expect “droves of people” into the centre which would then naturally feed onto the Joburg org (which was located in a suburban residential area with very little foot traffic).
Even though I was not on staff, I voluntarily spent many hours helping the org with call-in for these events. In a mad delusion of grandeur, Albert even asked me to get quotes and prices on a mini-bus which would be used for transporting staff and public to and from the Test Centre. I spent a good deal of time on this cycle which went……………..nowhere.
Fundraiser after fundraiser for the Test Centre took place virtually every weekend – a lot of public even traipsed into town to stand in the empty shell of the building so they could get “mass” on what they were donating for. This was the time when fundraisers started getting inventive with “auctions” and other incentives for donations. People were donating thousands for a set of Tupperware or a bunch of flowers or some other mest donated by public.
Eventually when we thought we were done, yet another event was promoted – the catch phrase was “please come to the event because we will be commending all those who have contributed”. The hidden hint was that this would be the event to announce we were “done” and so public naturally pitched up to get the good news and their commendations. Instead, Albert delivered a cap-in-hand shore story about having “under-budgeted” on the project, and thus a further R3 Million was needed.
And so yet again, Joburg public pulled together and this money was raised. By this stage, Andrew and I had donated in excess of R75,000. (This was on top of all the “free IT support” Andrew was giving the org on an ongoing basis).
Years later I found out that the story about being under-budget and needing further funds was a straight-out lie. The truth was that the money Johannesburg Public had donated for their Test Centre was being siphoned off to pay for the purchase of the Durban Ideal Org property (the same property they paid R16 Million for and then later demolished – leaving an empty lot). Many people still don’t know that they were duped by their own senior SO and Org Management – how’s that for “on the day we can fully trust each other”?
By this point, Ideal Orgs had become a serious “business” affair, with the appointment of Tri-Star as the official Project managers for all the Ideal Orgs. Gone were the days of Scientologist-owned businesses being allowed to “donate” the work as part of their contribution (as had been the case with Joburg in 2003) – all donations had to be straight-up hard cash. Because Andrew had done so much work to help the CLO and Joburg Org with their computer and IT problems, CO CMO Alex Faust made a specific request that Jacksons Computers be appointed as the official consultants and contractor on the Ideal Org program, and thus we were officially appointed. Our company fell under the same contractual obligations and rules as all other contractors, which meant compliance with all legal formalities in terms of workers safety requirements, contractual agreements etc. As Andrew was also appointed as the official Consultant for all the Ideal Orgs, he worked directly under the Electrical Engineer, and was thus on the team who consulted to Tri-Star for all future SCN building projects.
With the appointment of Tri-Star and formalizing of the whole African Ideal Orgs project, one would expect a degree of professionalism and thus proper organization of the various projects. Ordinarily, this is how companies as large as Tri-Star and the various appointed Consultants were used to working. Boy, were they in for a surprise.
The building project of the Test Centre project was but a microcosm of what was to come with future projects. Insane demands and requests for last-minute changes and additions to work-orders were constantly being placed on contractors – all of these requests coming from the Church (and possibly being driven down from Int).
This resulted in many of the contractors having to put in extra time as well as employ more staff to get the work done in the required time. Due to the fact that they had already quoted and were already on the job, many of the contractors ended up having to submit additional work orders – resulting in mass confusion and the original budget going up in smoke. The unreal and insane demands for completion of the work to happen “now now now” resulted in most of the contractors including Andrew and our staff literally working around the clock to get the job done.
Not only were unreal targets and demands being made, but all sorts of things had been overlooked such as the fact that due to the locale of the Test Centre (high crime rate area), it would be a matter of time before someone walked off with the very expensive equipment – unless it was virtually nailed down. As a last minute flap, Andrew had to supply cable locks for all the computers. Although he was paid for the actual locks, he was not paid for the extra time taken to install them, as this was not on the “original work order”. Same thing happened when someone in the Sea Org suddenly decided that all the equipment had to be engraved – which meant until it was engraved, it couldn’t be installed.
As usual, “Command Intention” set the date for the opening, and come hell or high water, this was to be complied with. Every project has its usual set of snags etc, but the Test Centre was a morass of snags – and some of them serious. Stupid and glaring mistakes were becoming obvious such as the furniture being installed in front of already installed plugs or computer outlets, resulting in desks having to have extra holes cut into them etc. The snag list just went on and on.
Something that really upset Andrew at this time was the nattering occurring about the electrical contractors on site. He had to work closely with these guys, and in his opinion, they were actually doing a very good job, under the circumstances. But because of the mistakes on the plans and site diagrams and constant demands to change things at the last minute, they were being blamed for things not being right. The owner of the electrical company told Andrew he had never worked with such a bunch of disorganized people in his life, and that even if he was asked to do the next project, he would decline.
In the last week before the opening, I did not see Andrew – he and his staff literally worked 24/7 with very little to no sleep in order to get the work done. Of course, we had to pay our staff overtime to do this, but as it had not been costed in, we could not recover this money and it all came out of our rapidly diminishing “profits”. In the last week, teams of people from the Sea Org were also put to work and even I was running around buying food and coffee (out of my own pocket) for the people working around the clock. I also did a number of errands such as buying the clay for the course rooms (oops – oversight) and other ad-hoc cycles that had somehow been forgotten.
And so, after a frenzied few final weeks to get everything done, the Test Centre opened on the 26th March 2009 (my birthday). Andrew and I were so exhausted we didn’t even watch much of the opening – Andrew was still inside the building finishing up work as the opening speeches were in progress! The building was named the “Braamfontein Life Improvement Centre” and opened to much fanfare with grand speeches about how wonderful the building was, what an incredible service it was going to be to the community, blah blah blah – and of course all filmed by Gold with their bright-lights, Cherry Pickers and other equipment that had been flown in for the event.
In the end, Andrew’s company had put in an additional work-order of R30,000 worth of labour and travel to get the job done. Because of how badly over-budget the job already was, we agreed with Elmien that this amount would be counted as a “donation” to Ideal Orgs (hiking our Ideal Orgs donations to over R100,000.00). We could ill afford to do this, as we had to pay our staff for all their overtime. In effect, we actually ended up losing money on the whole project.
After the opening, I visited the Test Centre a couple of times and noticed that Sea Org staff seemed to be running the place. They were even kitted out in khaki pants and white shirts (the “uniform” for the centre), and were all “on post” – I immediately spotted this as a glaring outpoint and couldn’t help thinking about the “Joburg Saint Hill Size” camouflaged hole with the org being “run” by the SO and then collapsing a while later after the SO withdrew. I experienced an uneasy Déjávu feeling which I justified with the thought that maybe this was a transient occurrence while they recruited and manned up the Test Centre. Little did I know.
When I joined staff two years later in 2011 (yes, I know, shoot me) I found out the Test Centre had been an abysmal failure with very few actual products – and in fact was not even operating anymore having been closed up for 6 months after Michelle Babich – (who had bravely and almost single-handedly run the Centre for a while) got attacked and badly beaten up by an ex-staff member. Her full story has been published on this blog, and it’s quite an eye-opener. Another good soul thrown onto the rubbish heap.
In late 2011, some semblance of effort was made to re-open and man-up the Centre at least in the afternoons. Gavin Slender had to put about 5 or 6 staff in his car every day after lunch muster to cart them off to the Centre for the afternoon, where they worked for a couple of hours until 5pm and then came back to the org.
Getting a PO approved for petrol was a constant and ongoing problem, and INCOMM had failed since 2009 to debug the telephone system which was supposed to hook up the org to the Test Centre, so there was no way of communicating with the staff at the Test Centre or get any stats reported (which were being demanded daily). I often ended up forking out my own money for cellphone airtime so that the Centre I/C could be in comm with the org.
Today, the Test Centre is a hairs-breath away from being a derelict, rundown, abandoned building. An article appeared on this blog not too long ago showing the state of disrepair and reporting that the Centre is opened “once or twice a week” for a couple of hours – I can guarantee even that has stopped now. Once again, Millions of parishioner’s money literally flushed down the drain. However, the Church owns a nice piece of real estate which cost them nothing – so what do they care?
Back to 2009 – while the Test Centre cycle was in progress, concurrent fundraising for Pretoria Org started – and yet again, Joburg Public were being expected to cough up for this. By this point, public were really starting to balk at the never-ending engram of fundraising. Even the OT Committee were starting to “push back” and I distinctly remember an interrogatory being put out on Pat and Renie Habib because they had vocalized their dissent with the insane fund-raising going on.
Of course the obvious question was “where were the Pretoria public when we were fundraising for Joburg Org” – and yet the Joburg field were being hit-up for Pretoria. I remember specifically addressing this issue with Albert one day, and he glibly told me that as we (Joburg) were the Continental Org, it was our (as in the Joburg public’s) responsibility to ensure all the African orgs reached Ideal Org status.
At some point along the way, it was announced that Joburg North was also to be included in the Ideal Org Campaign. This was a new development as this org had not been included in the original consulting project. It was already being broadly announced that South Africa was the first country “done” with the purchasing of all their Ideal Orgs. That prestige obviously no longer exists as, despite being in fundraising mode for the last 4 or 5 years, JBG North has still not purchased their building (the why on this will be revealed in due course).
And as if this wasn’t bad enough, it was then announced that Joburg Org would be getting a facelift with the addition of a whole new Div6 wing in order to bring it “up to scratch” with the International minimum-standards for Ideal Orgs.
I remember attending a number of fundraising events where all 3 projects (Pretoria, Joburg North and Joburg Org Facelift) were being fundraised for simultaneously. Public were getting into games conditions to see who could raise the most for their org, and it was around this time that the “bright idea” of the debit order system was conceived.
Around this time Andrew and I were really starting to feel the pinch, but we were confident this would come right once the Ideal Org projects started rolling. Of course, we were fed the PR BS that all the orgs were going to be done within the next two years, so we were not too stressed. In anticipation of the work we would be doing, we bridged some operating capital for the business.
Then Peach got the bright idea that seeing as Jacksons Computers would be doing the work on all the Ideal Orgs, and thus making a profit, we therefore should donate a lot more. If we thought the pressure was bad before, we were in for a nasty surprise at just how relentless and insane it was going to get.
Peach and Elmien would just pitch up at our office and refuse to leave until they had money from us – and this continued week after week after week. Peach even phoned my office, telling our receptionist (who was not a Scientologist) that she was my Gynecologist in an attempt to be put through to me so that she could reg me. Luke Byrnes pulled a similar stunt – claiming to be someone else in an attempt to speak to Andrew for money for some or other project.
And so, we stupidly agreed to “up-front” donate in anticipation of the profits we would make from the Ideal Orgs projects. We upped our status to New Civilization Builder, including signing a debit order to further up our status (which I stopped after a few months).
By November 2010, Andrew and I had donated R250,000.00 to Ideal Orgs. Below is a pic of us receiving our commendation from Albert and Peach, and the notation inside the card (note the themed dress-up garb).
And then, the IAS came for us……………… watch this space!