This little town's deeply religious, conservative Afrikaners paid quiet last respects today to a mother and two children who were among six whites killed in a guerrilla land-mine explosion Sunday.
As the three were buried in the luxuriant setting of this subtropical farming town in northeastern Transvaal Province, friends and relatives tried to keep their feelings under control.
But the undercurrent of anger among a pioneer people that prides itself on a spirit of resilience came forth when Dirk van Eck told reporters after watching the interment of his wife and children: "Tell Oliver Tambo this: he musn't awaken the tiger in the Afrikaner." Tambo is the leader in exile of the outlawed African National Congress.
"I hope these murderers understand," van Eck added, "that if they provoke the Afrikaners, they are provoking a people who can do them great damage."
His brief speech seemed to reflect the mood of the silent crowd and the pressures on the government in Pretoria to launch a reprisal raid into Zimbabwe. South Africa accuses that neighboring country of harboring the insurgents who have been responsible for seven land-mine attacks on border farms during the past three weeks.
Van Eck had some bitter words, too, for the growing number of whites and foreign critics trying to pressure the government into a dialogue with Tambo and the ANC.
"When I looked at those open graves I was stunned that there are people who want to talk to the ANC," van Eck said.
Throughout the funeral service, van Eck, 36, who survived the land-mine blast with his toddler son, then ran five miles to summon help, showed stoic composure. He shook hands formally with friends, fed year-old Erik a bottle of formula and stared stonily ahead.
Except for his brief impromptu statement to the press at the end of the day, the only other moment of emotion van Eck allowed himself was when he greeted his friend, fellow farmer Koos Denysschen, 36, who was with him in the truck when the mine exploded, killing two of Denysschen's children and his mother-in-law as well as van Eck's wife and children.
"Koos, my old mate," he said as he strode over to Denysschen and embraced him.
Denysschen was driving the truck when the mine exploded, and his face and right arm were burned severely. He left the hospital still heavily bandaged to attend the funeral today. His relatives will be buried Friday near the scene of today's ceremony.
Afrikaner funerals are often given to open displays of grief, but on this occasion there were only a few sobs, quickly stifled. The Tzaneen area supports the far-rightist Conservative Party, and today the community seemed to be making a conscious effort to live up to Afrikaner nationalism's self-image of toughness in the face of adversity.
Pastor Evert de Kock, who conducted the service in the town's packed, red-brick Dutch Reformed Church, remarked on the bereaved families' self-control.
"Their strength in the face of such a staggering tragedy is incredible," he said. But the pastor also hinted at the subsurface mood of anger and thirst for retribution when he referred in his sermon to "all sorts of people who have put forward all sorts of ideas to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again."
Although the planting of the land mine was "the work of the devil," this was not the time for such talk, de Kock advised. Instead, he said, quoting from Scripture, it was a time to reflect upon the spirituality of life.
The 600 or so devout Afrikaner farmers and townsfolk tried to do that through most of the day. But occasionally the anger revealed itself. One man, who would not give his name, told a television network interviewer: "We must take them the ANC insurgents out, and we must take them out now, even if it means going to Harare, otherwise there will be a lot more funerals like this one."
There were other murmurings among the mourners about "going to Harare." South Africa claims that the land mines, which have exploded on farms just south of the Limpopo River border, were planted by insurgents who crossed from neighboring Zimbabwe.
The government in Harare denies this, but South Africa has dismissed the denial and is threatening to make a "hot pursuit" raid into Zimbabwe if the land-mine attacks continue. A meeting between military commanders of both countries is scheduled for early next week in the South African border town of Messina.
The funeral-goers in Tzaneen were unimpressed by this talk, however. Many seemed to believe that the government has been too "soft" in its handling of the racial turbulence, in which more than 950 blacks have been killed during the past 16 months.
"Look at it this way," said van Eck's cousin, Johan van Rooyen. "We have the best security forces and the best equipment in the whole of Africa. The police alone could handle this situation if they were not constantly held back."
The patience of the Afrikaners has run out, van Rooyen continued, presenting the obverse of countless speeches made by angry blacks at funerals of victims of violence in the segregated townships.
"I am no prophet," van Rooyen said, "but stability must come very quickly; otherwise people are going to start taking action themselves."
As Van Rooyen spoke, Van Eck's younger brother Michael, who was standing nearby, nodded in agreement. "If I were to say what was in my mind I would go to jail," he murmured.
The land mine exploded late Sunday afternoon while the two Tzaneen families were spending a weekend together on Denysschen's game farm along the south bank of the Limpopo River.
Six other mines had exploded in the heavily militarized area during the past three weeks, killing a black tractor driver and injuring four soldiers and a civilian.
After the first explosions, Army engineers swept most of the area and pronounced it clear, but it appears that a locked gate prevented them from sweeping the roads on Denysschen's farm.
Koos Denysschen and Dirk van Eck traveled twice along the dirt track where the mine was but missed it. Thinking the track clear, they returned to the homestead, loaded their families into the farm truck and set out on a game-viewing drive.
A rear wheel of the truck hit the 55-pound Czechoslovak-made mine and detonated it. The blast flung the truck into a double somersault and set it ablaze. Denysschen and van Eck, who were sitting in the front with baby Erik, survived. Six of the eight women and children who were on the back of the truck were killed.
The ANC has acknowledged responsibility for the explosion, saying the area was a legitimate target for guerrilla attack because it is heavily militarized and considered strategically sensitive. However, a spokesman at the ANC's exiled headquarters in Lusaka, Zambia, has denied that the guerrillas operate out of Zimbabwe, claiming that they are based in South Africa.
In another development today, the major domestic news agency, the South African Press Association, quoted unnamed "informed sources" in Pretoria as saying a small contingent of South African troops had penetrated deep into Angola.
The agency said the invaders had killed six insurgents of the South-West Africa People's Organization and captured a large quantity of weapons.
SWAPO is fighting a guerrilla war of independence to try to end South Africa's control of the former German colony of Namibia.
The reported invasion comes at a time when the United States is trying to revive bogged-down negotiations with the Marxist government in Luanda, aimed at achieving the removal of 30,000 Cuban troops from Angola and a negotiated independence for Namibia.