FILE PHOTO: South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks during a session of the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town, South Africa, September 5, 2019. REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – South Africa’s top court on Thursday re-affirmed an earlier ruling that President Cyril Ramaphosa did not deliberately mislead lawmakers about donations to his 2017 campaign to lead the ruling party.

The Public Protector, an anti-corruption watchdog, had been unhappy with last year’s ruling by the high court, which found that Ramaphosa did not, as alleged, intentionally mislead parliament about fundraising and donations. These included R500,000 deposited into Ramaphosa’s son Andile’s account.

The case has been seen as proxy war between two rival factions within the ruling African National Congress (ANC) – one supporting Ramaphosa; the other, former President Jacob Zuma, who was sentenced to 15 months in jail on Tuesday for failing to appear at a corruption inquiry.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is seen as allied to Zuma’s faction, a claim she has denied.

Ramaphosa ousted scandal-hit Jacob Zuma as party leader in 2018, and Zuma has since been subjected to several corruption investigations.

Mkhwebane had also alleged in her 2019 report that there was prima facie evidence of money laundering involving millions of rands in the campaign to succeed Jacob Zuma. Ramaphosa denied this when he sought a legal review of her report, winning the case in the high court last year.

The constitutional court on Thursday threw out a challenge by Mkhwebane to that ruling.

“The Public Protector was wrong on the facts… with regard to the issue whether the president had wilfully misled parliament and the high court was right to set aside her findings,” Judge Chris Jafta said.

(Reporting by Wendell Roelf, Editing by Tim Cocks, William Maclean)