Malema, 31, confirmed he would appeal against the African National Congress (ANC) decision last month to expel him on charges of sowing divisions within its ranks, which he denies.
Striking an unusually contrite figure in an interview broadcast on state TV, the suspended ANC Youth League leader insisted he had done nothing wrong by calling for nationalisation of mines and the seizure of white-owned land in South Africa, the world’s biggest producer of platinum.
One of the ANC’s most dramatic orators, his calls for a radical transformation of Africa’s biggest economy had resonated with poor blacks. He frequently mocked President Jacob Zuma.
But in an interview on the State of Our Nation programme shown live by state broadcaster SABC, he asked to be allowed to stay on in the ANC, saying membership was “my life” and that he had joined the anti-apartheid movement at the age of nine.
“Please leave me with a card because the imagination of being outside the ANC is too scary. I love the ANC, I don’t have anything except the ANC,” he said.
“I want to apologise to the leadership of the ANC for anything they think I’ve done wrong … I did not do it deliberately,” said Malema, wearing his traditional black beret and a yellow T-shirt bearing the portrait of anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela.
He strongly rejected persistent media allegations that he had engaged in corruption by using his political position to influence the awarding of government tenders to his business cronies.
“There is no court of law that has found me corrupt. I have never had power to channel tenders,” Malema said, adding the media in South Africa should be regulated “because this media will destroy this democracy.”
Malema said that if necessary he would take his appeal against his expulsion all the way to the ANC congress scheduled for the end of the year which will choose new leaders, adding: “I will die with my boots on.”
If finally confirmed, his expulsion will help clear a path for Zuma to win a second term as ANC leader in the December party congress.
Asked what his options were if his appeal against expulsion failed, Malema with a broad smile said he would continue with his studies, pursue his business interests and continue cattle farming.