Julius Malema, an outspoken youth member of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party, gained a higher position in the government thanks to his success in a recent regional election. Currently serving as the head of the party’s Youth League, Malema has now been elected on to the ANC’s executive committee for his native province of Limpopo.

Malema has been largely credited with boosting South African president, and ANC leader, Jacob Zuma’s popularity and rise to power. However the relationship between Malema and Zuma has since grown sour in light of Malema’s ill-received remarks in reference to Zuma’s recent rape trial.

Malema’s frankness has proved to be a thorn in his party’s side and he has lost much of his support among the ANC elite. Malema has also caused divisions within the ANC by advocating for a change in neighboring Botswana’s government and for applauding expelled party leader and former president, Thabo Mbeki, the BBC reports.

In November, an ANC judicial body found Malema guilty of bringing the party to disrepute and subsequently banned him for five years. Malema is currently appealing the decision and remains an active party member until his appeal is considered, Reuters reports.

Malema’s troubled status within the ANC prompted strong disapproval amongst his colleagues with respect to his new seat. However. ANC secretary Soviet Lekganyane defended Malema.

“For now he is a member of the ANC with full rights and duties protected by the ANC constitution,” the BBC quotes him as saying.

If Malema’s appeal is denied, his promise of becoming the next powerhouse in South African politics will be severely damaged.