The Sowetan reported on Thursday that the former wife of Nelson Mandela told Malema in Nqgeleni in the Eastern Cape that his efforts to economically liberate the country had been noticed.
She was accompanied by Malema, suspended ANCYL spokesperson Floyd Shivambu, the league's suspended secretary general Sandiso Magaqa, as well as her daughter Zinzdi.
They were at the official opening of a block of rooms at the Mzontsha Child Care Centre, as part of celebrating former president Nelson Mandela's birthday. The home was donated by the Mandela family.
Madikizela-Mandela referred to Malema as her grandson.
"Thank you very much for making us see in our lifetime that it is possible to liberate our people economically and better their lives.
"Thank you very much for leading that campaign because it is as result of your emphasis, the youth league's emphasis on the role we should be playing as freedom fighters."
She said the country was in deep trouble as promises were made and not fulfilled.
"The children [here] are lucky we made promises and promises have been kept. We see our people today in the streets demonstrating against us… it is one of the most painful things to observe that 18 years down the line we still have people who say we have failed them."
The family later joined Mandela for his birthday lunch at his home in Qunu. The Sowetan could not establish if Malema joined the family. – Sapa