English: Although public participation is deemed important in South Africa, negative perceptions of its legitimacy are widely acknowledged. Inclusive town-planning processes, as instruments to address inequality, have a significant role in enhancing democracy. This article reports on a study done from a communicative planning perspective, with the aim to investigate the influence of public participation in town planning by means of an analysis of town-planning application procedures between 1992-2008 in the Tlokwe Local Municipality, North-West province, South Africa. The results indicate that only 6% of all commentary on planning applications consists of objections from the public. Technically motivated objections and town-planning firms had the most influence on planning outcomes. This seems to indicate reactive and consultative participation wherein the final decision resides with the local authority. It appears that public participation’s idealistic ‘feel good’ mask does not live up to the expectations of an empowered civil society.