He led a crowd of EFF members to Mandela’s house in Houghton to lay flowers and pay tribute to him, a week after his death.
“Thank you [Mandela] for ushering in political freedom…. Those who came after you failed to deliver economic freedom,” he said.
“We are picking up this battle.”
Malema said most people chose to remember Mandela since 1994 rather than focusing on his years in the struggle for liberation.
“People are distorting Nelson Mandela today.”
After Mandela’s burial, at Qunu, in the Eastern Cape, on Sunday, Malema said he would speak more about Mandela’s character during the struggle.
“Viva the militant Nelson Mandela, viva,” he shouted.
Malema urged his supporters to act in a disciplined and dignified manner when they went to view Mandela’s body lying in state at the Union Buildings later on Thursday.
He slated the expenditure on President Jacob Zuma’s house at Nkandla, in KwaZulu-Natal and contrasted it with Mandela’s decision to donate half of his presidential salary to charity.
“It is the extreme opposite of what Mandela stood for,” he said.
“We are still engaged in a long walk to economic freedom.”
Malema extended the party’s condolences to Mandela’s family, the African National Congress, South Africans and the world.
He praised Mandela’s former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and his widow Graca Machel as “strong women”.
“We salute [Cuban leader] Raul Castro, we salute [Zimbabwean] President [Robert] Mugabe. We have no business saluting Prime Minister of Britain [David Cameron],” Malema said to cheering from his followers.
The EFF laid red roses at a growing wall of tributes near Mandela’s house.