The paper explores whether ward committees are in fact the non-partisan structures for community participation in local government stipulated by legislation and official policy. Findings from the municipality of Msunduzi suggest that, where they actually function, ward committees are dominated by local political leaders. In most IFP wards and some ANC wards, ward committees are simply extensions of the local party branch, and reflect the pathologies associated with the 'dominant party syndrome'. In other wards there is both more party pluralism and less direct party control, but often intra-party factionalism or local political rivalries dominate the composition and operation of ward committees. In short, ward committees allow for little community voice alternative to dominant ward political leadership.