Abstract: In highlighting the 'strong state' features of the classical developmental state (DS), civil society's role for the realisation of developmental outcomes is often under-represented if not entirely side-lined in the DS literature in Africa. Given the renewed interest in the rising notion of democratic developmental states (DDS), civil society as an integral part of democracy must have some significance for aspirational developmental trajectory in Africa, and especially in South Africa. This article presents an analysis of the role of civil society in the project of a South African developmental state. A trend assessment is conducted with the view to illuminate where the civil society organisation (CSO) stands, and in the pursuit of the developmental state in South Africa's young democracy. The study identifies a number of strengths as well as challenges currently facing CSOs in South Africa with regard to their contribution towards the realisation of the democratic developmental state.