Edendale Tannery, Pietermaritzburg, closed at the end of last year due to the potential cost of upgrading the effluent treatment system. The tannery, founded in 1928, was the only dedicated vegetable tannery in the country.

The Department of Water Affairs found that the walls of the evaporation ponds had been ‘breached, apparently deliberately’ and demanded that Edendale submit ‘written plans to rectify the situation’.

Edendale managing director Willie Schlosser said the tannery had been down scaling for some years, from processing around 1,500 hides a week to around the same quantity in a month.

He said that ‘numerous factors have played a part in our decision to close. The ratio of good quality hides is not in our favour and the demand for sole leather has declined with the decline of the better shoe factories.

‘We had expected business to improve with the closure of Sutherlands Tannery, but that didn’t really make a difference.’

Edendale’s closure leaves just two tanneries producing vegetable tanned leathers. Leather from Hart, which operates on the old Sutherlands tannery site, and Oasis Tanning.

Wynand Hart says he is under pressure to produce more but says the cost of the hides is daunting.