As head of the influential ANC youth league he had earlier helped Jacob Zuma become South Africa’s president.
Many observers wrote him off, but he re-emerged quickly as head of a new party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), becoming a member of parliament in 2014.
Their fight, Malema says, is against white-held capital, and the “irritant”, as he now describes Jacob Zuma.
His economic policies, including nationalisation of industry and expropriation without compensation, play well on the streets and badly in company boardrooms.
“We are not to wage any war against Zuma and the ANC,” Malema says.
They are standing in our way to crashing white monopoly capital which has stolen our land, which controls the wealth of our country, and as we are in the process of crashing the white monopoly capital, there will be some of those irritations that we have to deal with and Zuma represents such an irritation, the ANC represents such an irritation.”
A controversial and often contradictory figure, Malema is a confirmed capitalist himself, known for his expensive taste, while much less is known about the source of his wealth.
He has been accused of corruption, convicted of hate speech, yet to his supporters he is a revolutionary, proceeding where the ANC has failed – to reduce inequality, redistribute wealth – and even, if necessary, to defend their rights by force.
He says that he is willing to take up arms against Zuma’s government and “remove the parliament through the barrel of a gun” if they push them to do so.
“We know for a fact that Gauteng ANC rigged the elections here. We know for a fact that they lost in Johannesburg and they lost Gauteng. We still accepted it but they must know that we are not going to do that this year,” Malema says.
“We are not going to accept. Part of the revolutionary duty is to fight and we are not at shame if the need arises for us to take up arms and fight. We will fight.
“This regime must respond peacefully to our demands, must respond constitutionally to our demands.
“And if they are going to respond violently like they did in the township of Alexandra just outside Johannesburg, when people said these results do not reflect the outcome of our vote, they sent the army to go and intimidate our people.
“We are not going to stand there. Zuma is not going to use the army to intimidate us. We are not scared of the army. We are not scared to fight. We will fight.”
Julius Malema talks to Al Jazeera about the ANC and Zuma, his South African revolution and his vision for the future of the country.