JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's main opposition party elected a black woman as its number two on Thursday, challenging the perception it is an all-white party that will never attract significant support away from the ruling ANC.
Lindiwe Mazibuko, 31, the Democratic Alliance's (DA) articulate chief spokesperson, defeated veteran politician Athol Trollip in a vote to lead the party in parliament.
With just two years' parliamentary experience, Mazibuko's critics argue that she lacks experience, while supporters say her eloquence and intelligence will attract middle class black voters to a still overwhelmingly white political party.
She is being tipped as a future successor to Helen Zille, who has worked hard to increase the DA's cross-cultural appeal.
Since coming to power at the end of apartheid in 1994, the African National Congress has dominated elections, with the DA mostly attracting minority votes in the white, Indian and mixed race "coloured" communities.
It has been credited for its good governance and lower crime rates in the Western Cape, the province it runs, and has grown from just 2 percent of the vote in 1994 to 24 percent in May local elections.
But analysts say Mazibuko's polished English accent and private education is unlikely to sway many of South Africa's black majority, who are largely unemployed and living in poverty.
"The party itself has treated this as a defining issue with regard to the ability to pull black middle class voters but I suspect voters will not be swayed," independent political analyst Nic Borain said.