IT IS no secret that crime intelligence in SA has been hijacked for political ends. The "spy tapes" saga that resulted in President Jacob Zuma being let off the hook on corruption charges before he became president, and the various shenanigans involving former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli, provide ample evidence.

The political implications are serious enough on their own given that this is not the only state institution that has been sucked into the ANC’s factional wrangling. I shudder to think where we would be as a nation were it not for the judiciary and the public protector.

Just as important, though, is the effect of the collapse of the police’s intelligence function on crime prevention efforts. There are some categories of crime, such as gangsterism, racketeering and politically motivated acts, that can be controlled only by infiltrating the groups suspected of planning to commit crimes in pursuit of their nefarious goals.

When crime intelligence either starts taking a partisan approach or is so distracted by playing politics that it is no longer capable of doing its job, the only winners are the criminals. This was one of the issues flagged in the recommendations of the Khayelitsha inquiry established by Western Cape Premier Helen Zille into complaints of police inefficiency and poor relations with communities on the Cape Flats. It was therefore no surprise that the most recent crime statistics revealed an increase in many of the crime categories traditionally most responsive to crime intelligence. It simply wasn’t happening, crimes such as gangsterism and drug dealing spiralled out of control, and the result was a rise in vigilantism, with horrific mob justice reminiscent of apartheid’s "necklace" killings.

Politically motivated policing and a dearth of proper intelligence gathering may also explain why the Western Cape has been plagued by so much protest-related destruction and seemingly mindless vandalism. The city has taken two steps at a time towards achieving goals such as an integrated public transport system incorporating taxi, commuter rail and bus routes; low-income housing; basic services to informal settlements and the conversion of old migrant labour hostels to family units.

But it is forced to take a step back due to cable theft, council officials prevented from doing their jobs, drains being deliberately blocked, traffic lights set alight, or the wanton destruction of social infrastructure such as trains, offices, libraries and community halls. The economic cost is horrific in a country that has so much need.

But there is no easy solution. Until people use their votes to demand political accountability, there will be little incentive for the police to get their act together.

Politically motivated policing and a dearth of proper intelligence gathering may also explain why the Western Cape has been plagued by so much protest-related destruction and seemingly mindless vandalism. The city has taken two steps at a time towards achieving goals such as an integrated public transport system incorporating taxi, commuter rail and bus routes; low-income housing; basic services to informal settlements and the conversion of old migrant labour hostels to family units.

I WAXED lyrical a couple of months ago about the joys of the SnapScan smartphone payment system, but lamented the fact that so few shops in Cape Town seemed ready to take the plunge into the world of cardless transactions.

The SnapScan app was developed by Stellenbosch-based FireID Payments, and while Standard Bank processes the transactions, you don’t have to be a Standard client to use it and the app works with all credit cards, and most debit cards, issued in SA.

Quite a few competitors to SnapScan have entered the marketplace since I wrote that piece, some targeting specific markets such as the restaurant trade. That’s all for the good, I suppose, except it means having to load several different apps onto your phone, with the attendant risk of entrusting more people with your credit card information.

I know it’s all encoded and supposedly inaccessible to would-be thieves, but there have been enough online security breaches to make me wary. Still, I enjoy the convenience of paying by smartphone, so will persist.

According to FireID, about 14 000 vendors have now signed up to the SnapScan system countrywide, and Cape Town has the biggest user footprint. Yesterday I discovered the Cape Town authorities are the latest recruits — Street Parking Solutions, the company that has the contract to police kerbside parking in the city, is to introduce SnapScan as a payment option for parking on a trial basis from tomorrow.

The beauty of the system in this application is that all it requires on the part of the parking attendant is that she carry a QR code, which is scanned by the parker who wishes to make payment using the SnapScan app. Enter a password and the amount, and the payment takes place effortlessly — no more scratching for change, and a reduced risk to the attendant of being targeted by robbers.

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