The department of labour in Mpumalanga has stopped a R45million road upgrade because the project's constructor has underpaid workers and compromised their safety.
Labour officials said Manto Consulting Engineers, the company appointed by Mpumalanga's department of roads and transport to tar the road in the Lefiso-Marapyane area, had failed to provide employees with protective equipment as required by law.
Workers were forced to use their own clothing, unsuitable for the work involved, they said.
The roads department reportedly also appointed the consulting engineers overseeing the running of the construction, and also hired the workers and the sub-contractors.
It has been two months since the project was stopped, which has angered the local villagers.
Angry villagers said that construction had come to a complete standstill.
Sowetan has also learnt that the department of roads and transport "had accepted responsibility" for not complying with Occupational Health Safety Act but have requested they be allowed to continue with their upgrade operations before presenting their case at a meeting with the labour inspector, Thabo Skosana.
"We have said no," said Tony Mphahlele, the provincial labour department's spokesman.
"It would be wrong of us to allow a certain company or department to continue with their duties while our statutes are being violated," he said.
"The resolution was that, until the requirements of the inspector were complied with, the status quo at the site will remain."
The roads department has promised to have all the relevant documents ready by Friday.
Community leader Sam Mmutle said they had not been given adequate reasons for the work stoppage.
Mphahlele said the construction was "temporarily halted" after an inspection on the work site had provided "shocking findings".
He said his department also wanted workers be paid the minimum wage, dating from the commencement of the contract, after it was discovered that the workers were being paid R6,87 an hour instead of R12,11.
Manto Consulting Engineers claim that "a risk assessment and analysis" had been conducted twice already and that the required health and safety specifications had been recommended to them.