This study investigated the performance of rural local government institutions in Zimbabwe and the Beitbridge Rural District Council (BRDC) in particular, between 1993 and 2002. Specific focus was on the BRDC’s effort to enhance democratic participation and empower local communities; its performance in providing services of a local nature; and the level of performance of its management in its bid to infuse and maintain ethos of institutional excellence in the council. Interviews, questionnaires and documentary search were used as instruments for collecting data of both a qualitative and quantitative nature. Consequently, the study does not draw polarity between quantitative and qualitative dimensions of research because of the need to derive benefits from both methodologies. The analysis of data followed a similar approach. The findings of this study are that there is no sufficient community participation in BRDC affairs. Although there is a platform for community participation in the form of VIDCOs and WADCOs, officials of these committees tend to dominate the planning process and consequently, plans reflect the decisions of a minority rather than a majority. Councilors only report back to communities when they feel like and council staff are not responsive to the communities they serve. Thus, the performance of the BRDC in enhancing community participation is below the expectations of communities and this has created a strained relationship between council and the latter. On service provision, the indications are that services are not adequate to meet the demands of communities particularly in housing, recreational facilities, water and transport. Besides, the provision is not responsive to community needs. Inefficiency and ineffectiveness manifest themselves in the process. Council management is bedeviled with several forms of non-performance due to resource wastage, lack of responsiveness and a general lackadaisical attitude. One would conclude that the manner in which the council is performing indicates a lack of economic and administrative rationality in both councilors and council staff. Consequently, there is need to build the capacity of both incumbents and infuse ethos of excellence in running council affairs. This can be done through training and staff development programmes.