Development theories and practice continue to renew themselves, anticipating that they will eventually re-compose themselves into sharper tools for meaningful development outcomes. Among the 'modern' tools used by development practitioners is Public participation, which continues to occupy a large space in development debates. Elegant as it continues to be, in some quaters public participation is beginning to suggest that, it might be running out of steam. Or is it that development practitioners got it wrong in the efforts to operationalise it? This work disentagles issues that sustain contradictions and frictions in processes of development on local levels in South Africa.