This article addresses the dilemma of the democratic development of water resources management in the context of Post-Apartheid South Africa and unequal access to water. Using a political sociology of public policy approach as a conceptual framework, this article focuses on the actual functioning of the catchment management agencies (CMAs). On the basis of case studies' analysis, it is argued that CMAs are essentially political arenas although the semi-structured interviews conducted reveal that this political dimension is mainly denied by most of CMAs members and staff as well as by policy makers. Finally, the risks of professionalising interest representation within CMAs are evoked. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.