South Africa's fiery young politician Julius Malema has told a rally of his new party that a "giant" has been born which should be feared and will fight for the poor.

Thousands had gathered near the Marikana mine on Sunday where 34 striking workers were shot dead by police in September 2012, to cheer the 32-year-old leader and his newly-formed Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party.

"A different baby is born today, a giant ... A child that walks immediately. The baby that fights for your living wage," said Malema, who was last year expelled as head of the governing ANC Youth League (ANCYL) for bringing the party into disrepute,

"You must be afraid of that child," he warned, wearing his trademark red beret.

"This is the home for the hopeless." 

Malema apologised for once backing President Jacob Zuma, saying he had given the country mediocrity by promoting a singer who was neither a thinker nor a reader.

Malema said there was no difference between the Marikana massacre and Sharpeville massacre of 1960, when apartheid police opened fire on protesters, killing 69 people. 

Malema said he picked on Marikana as the venue for the party's launch because the slain miners were economic freedom fighters, the City Press newspaper reported.

Security forces last year opened fire on striking workers at a platinum mine in Marikana, killing 34 miners in a crackdown reminiscent of the apartheid-era police brutality.

The government has since instituted a commission of inquiry to investigate the fatal shootings which were preceded by an attack in which police officers were allegedly killed by miners. 

Electioneering tactics 

City Press quoted Malema as saying he had learned his electioneering tactics while serving as head of the ANC Youth League (ANCYL).

"When we were campaigning for Zuma, as the ANCYL which I led, we made South African politics fashionable. We are going to use the same strategy to garner support for the EFF," he said.

Malema hinted at restoring the death penalty if South Africans voted on the issue in a referendum, City Press reported.

"When we win the elections next year, we will hold a referendum on the death penalty and, if the people want it back, so be it.

"And we will not be apologetic about hanging or castrating men who rape the elderlies and children [sic].

"Though crime is largely caused by unemployment, poverty and inequality, rape is caused by uncontrollable libido," he said, referring to South Africa's widespread sexual violence.

Malema has described his EFF as "radical left, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist" but the firebrand is also known for his extravagant lifestyle and is currently fighting fraud and tax evasion charges.

The ANC, in power since 1994 when apartheid ended after Nelson Mandela was elected South Africa's first black president, has dominated the political scene with no serious challengers.

Malema's EFF would attract many poor black South Africans disenchanted with the ANC, but may struggle to unseat the party, which has solid support in most of the country's nine provinces. 

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies