This article uses triangulation to understand the development of an effective and efficient public service in South Africa. The creation of democracy in South Africa is not a sufficient condition for development as demonstrated by the challenges the country faces, twenty years after the political settlement. The public service of this country must be grounded in an understanding of the applied political economy of development and fully embrace that this country is a democratic developmental state. The article explores the evolvement in thinking from development economics to structural economics and eventually to the importance of applied political economy and how it can inform the advancement of service delivery as expected from public servants. The pre-conditions for the success of the South African public service are discussed.