The deterioration of the state, its inability to move decisively to lift South Africa out of this crisis, is rooted institutionally in the ways in which personnel are appointed to and removed from the public service and municipalities. The Constitution envisages a non-partisan administration, obedient to democratic law and policy and positively oriented to the achievement of substantive freedom and equality for all the people of South Africa. In the early post-apartheid years, however, there was a tension between these imperatives. Non-partisan personnel practices would leave the public administration in the hands of old apartheid administrators, who might resist the state’s new direction. So, to overcome them, politicians expanded their powers of appointment and removal. Today, as a consequence, supporters of the constitutional project prevail across the public administration, but continuing politicisation is now producing the opposite of democratic rule, it is implicated in eroding the integrity, controls and capabilities needed to achieve popular, constitutional goals. This policy brief considers how to address this problem.