The soldiers gathered to hear Malema address their worries over being placed on special leave following a violent strike – despite court action in their favour.
"You have been winning court cases but the government is not prepared to listen to the courts," said Malema, who was flanked by his spokesperson Floyd Shivambu and suspended youth league secretary general Sindiso Magaqa.
Malema told soldiers that South Africa was a "banana republic" that does not follow the rule of law.
"No one is above the law, not the military, not the presidency and not Parliament. Every court decision must be respected," Malema told over 100 soldiers in civilian dress at the Lenasia Recreation Centre, south of Johannesburg.
"We must respect the courts but the leadership of this banana republic disrespects the courts."
He referenced the Democratic Alliance's (DA) battle to get hold of the transcripts of the controversial "spy tapes", which the National Prosecuting Authority had claimed were the basis of its decision not to prosecute President Jacob Zuma.
"We don't like the DA, we don't like Helen Zille," said Malema. "But she has won a court case which gave them 14 days. Now [it's] almost a year and they are not complying with that court order."
Contempt of court
The DA has lodged a court application against the NPA for being in contempt of court after refusing to hand over a record of its decision relating to the dropping of corruption charges against Zuma.
Malema continued to build a careful case against the government and particularly Zuma as its head, pointing out the legality of his challenge at every step.
"We will never engage in any mutiny," he shouted to an enthusiastic audience. "Yes, we admit we don't like the current leadership but we will use democratic methods to unseat them."
He went on to reference the education department's failure to meet a court injunction to get textbooks to Limpopo learners, effectively conflating his own internal disciplinary problems with the ANC and that of the soldiers' battle against the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) as part of a larger struggle by citizens against the government.
SANDF members were placed on special leave after they staged an aggressive protest in Pretoria in 2009 over poor salaries and adverse working conditions. Tshwane police used rubber bullets and teargas to disperse around 1 000 soldiers after they trashed surrounding streets, damaged cars and set a military vehicle alight.
The department tried to institute disciplinary procedures against them but was interdicted from doing so by the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, after an application to halt the procedure by the South African National Defence Union (Sandu).