The expelled ANC Youth League leader was given a festive welcome by strikers at the Aurora mine in Grootvlei, Springs on Thursday morning, and they sang "Ngisebenzela izingane zami emgodini [I'm working for my kids in the mine]" and Dubula iBhunu as they waited for him to get out of his Mercedes-Benz Viano and address them.
Dressed in a white shirt, black pants and his trademark beret, Malema urged miners not to return to work until their demands were met.
"Illegal strike or not, fight for your rights," he said.
The mine – previously owned by President Jacob Zuma's nephew Khulubuse Zuma and former president Nelson Mandela's grandson Zondwa Mandela – fell into disrepair after workers went on strike over unpaid wages.
"We will make these mines ungovernable until the whites listen," Malema told them. "They must pay a decent wage – R12 500 a month as a basic wage for all. This is your time. This country is what it is today because of miners like you. You must claim your rightful place in South Africa … We must stand united, comrades. We must fight together because if we don't the whites will throw you away like toilet paper."
But he didn't waste the opportunity to take another swipe at the president.
"Zuma came to see if he could help you workers, but all he was doing is checking out business opportunities for his nephew," he said.
"We thought it would be nice to be a black person after 1994, but it's gotten worse than Apartheid. Our own people are killing us. Our leaders have lost their way … They have been co-opted by mine owners and fed profits. They don't care about you … Our government is suffering legitimacy as they've lost the confidence of our people. Don't let the boers divide you – stand united."
Malema's chants of "Phansi, Zuma [down, Zuma]" were met with enthusiastic replies from the workers, who told him how angry they were with the ANC and government.
"He is our future! He's our leader! He will be our president! The ANC are cowards," one miner said of Malema.
Aurora was placed under liquidation in October 2011 after the company's directors failed to pay workers and creditors.
"We are sitting with a situation where liquidators are breaking up Aurora. The liquidators must know though – workers must be paid," he said.
Liquidators of Pamodzi appointed Aurora Empowerment Systems to manage the mines in October 2009. At the time, the mines were fully operational.
The directors of Aurora – Khulubuse Zuma, Zondwa Mandelathe, Michael Hulley and Thulani Ngubane – have come under intense scrutiny over the mine's demise, and in November last year were grilled by Parliament over claims they had fraudulently stripped the mine of its assets.