ANTI-APARTHEID activist Mamphela Ramphele has announced she will run for president for the Democratic Alliance (DA) in this year's South African election, giving the main opposition party a prominent black figurehead to challenge the ruling ANC.

But the choice of Ms Ramphele, which some believe was aimed at shaking off perception of the DA as a guardian of white privilege, is unlikely to turn popular support against the African National Congress which led a decades-long struggle against apartheid.

The move might even backfire on the 66-year-old doctor and former World Bank managing director, who commands respect among the black majority as the partner of Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko, who died in police custody in 1977.

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Her Agang political party has struggled to gain traction despite growing disaffection among voters with President Jacob Zuma's ANC.