Johanensburg - Expelled ANCYL leader Julius Malema has denied that he was on a crusade against President Jacob Zuma during the memorial service for the Lonmin Marikana shooting, it was reported on Friday.

“I can't sit back while my people are being killed and pretend as if it is not happening,” Malema was quoted as saying by the Mail&Guardian.

“I have an obligation to intervene and raise the plight of those who are abused by the state. There is a political vacuum and we occupied that space,” he said.

“If we failed to do that, the wrong elements would have taken that space. We took it while the (ANC) leadership was indoors speaking to themselves.”

Last Thursday, a total of 34 people were killed in a shootout near the mine when police tried to disperse striking miners.

More than 70 people were injured. Another 10 people had by then been killed in the violent protests earlier at the mine.

During the memorial service on Thursday Malema told mourners that the government did not do anything for the 34 slain miners in Marikana.

“Under democracy our people will be protected. But government has turned against its people,” Malema said.

He accused members of government of only attending the memorial service to pose for news cameras.

The ministerial delegation walked out after Malema spoke. - Sapa