We have argued that in the post-iGoli 2002 period, uniting a divided Johannesburg hinged more than ever upon the successful operation of integrated planning and community participation. Although it was still experimental, an inclusive post-apartheid developmental planning process was operational, and participation was its leitmotif. Across the spectrum of the unequal and divided neighbourhoods of Johannesburg, the task of identifying community development priorities fell largely upon a single organizational format: the CDF. As the legacy of the anti-apartheid struggle and the South African variant of participatory forums seen elsewhere in the world, the CDFs represented a valuable instrument of state-civil society engagement. But politics cannot be straight-jacketed, and there is a danger that, through their institutionalization as a compulsory dimension of the participatory planning process, the role of the CDFs will undermine the ability of communities to engage with the local authority. Here we explore the tension between the benefits of compulsory state engagement with communities, and the lack of democracy associated with the institutionalization of community organizations.