Some unsuspecting patients at an anger management class near Johannesburg are set to be joined by South Africa's most notorious big-mouth, it emerged yesterday. Julius Malema, leader of the ruling party's youth wing, is to undergo counselling to help him control his temper.
The 29-year-old was fined about £900, put on a two-year probation and forced to make a public apology after a series of outbursts which included his outspoken backing of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, public criticism of his own leader, Jacob Zuma, and defying a high court ban by singing an anti-apartheid anthem including the lyric: "Kill the Boer."
"I, Julius Malema, apologise to the President of the ANC and the Republic... and to the membership of the African National Congress and the public in general for the statements and utterances," he said in a statement.
In a torrid two-month period, the firebrand with a taste for high-end fashion and luxury cars never left the South African headlines. He was accused in the local media of profiting from state contracts – a charge he denied.
In the tensions that followed the murder of white supremacist leader Eugene Terreblanche, Mr Malema was accused of making inflammatory statements while other politicians were trying to calm racial tensions. He then attracted international opprobrium after losing his temper with a BBC journalist, having him thrown out of a press conference and shouting that he was a "bastard" and a "bloody agent".
The final straw came last month, when Mr Malema responded to a chiding from President Zuma by complaining that the former president, Thabo Mbeki, had never publicly upbraided him. Mr Malema pleaded guilty at an internal hearing on Tuesday, where he was represented by party treasurer Matthews Phosa, to contravening the constitution of the ANC. That admission saw more serious charges dropped.
"I accept that these statements had the effect of undermining the stature of the President of the ANC and of the Republic," Mr Malema said. "It further may have had the effect of undermining the confidence of our people in the leadership of the ANC and of creating serious divisions and breakdown of unity in the organisation."
Any further contravention of the party rules in the next two years will see Mr Malema's membership suspended for a period to be determined by the disciplinary committee.
Mr Malema was deployed as a populist bruiser during the 2009 election, launching controversial attacks on Mr Zuma's opponents while allowing the President to stick to a positive message. He was also instrumental in rounding up support for Mr Zuma during his epic power struggle with his predecessor, Mr Mbeki, which explains the leader's reluctance to alienate the younger man, whom – until recently – he was tipping as a future ANC leader.