Many developing countries aim at balancing macro-level, growth-oriented economic policies with local community-based development strategies under the auspices of global governance organizations. South Africa adopts such a strategy to be competitive in the global market and, simultaneously, to alleviate domestic socio-spatial inequalities inherited from the apartheid period. Based on a qualitative case study in and around Pilanesberg National Park, this paper assesses whether this seemingly contradictory policy combination elicits the empowerment of traditionally marginalized actors. We use an institutional approach to evaluating sustainable development policy. Results of a policy perception analysis indicate that the substantive aspects of South Africa’s policies are widely acknowledged in the Pilanesberg area. The problem rests with the procedural aspects of how to deal with the shared responsibility of stakeholders with different interests and levels of authority. The paper concludes that power can be meaningfully shifted to community stakeholders only when the investments of global and national-level players are redirected towards establishing a system of procedures to solve local-level disparities in skills and power between the “jointly responsible” actors. These disparities currently result in deadlocks regarding local sustainable development in the Pilanesberg area, despite promising multi-level policies implemented in the post-apartheid era to avoid such situations.