Cape universal socket innovator wants to give back by hiring ex-prisoners on his assembly plants

Inventor and innovator David Harte tinkering with a plug in the garage where he worked on his invention. File Picture: Mwangi Githahu/Cape Argus

Inventor and innovator David Harte tinkering with a plug in the garage where he worked on his invention. File Picture: Mwangi Githahu/Cape Argus

Published Aug 30, 2023


Cape Town - David Harte, the Cape Town inventor who invented and patented the universal light bulb socket, is ready to start mass manufacturing his invention and, with prison rights activist Miles Bhudu, has come up with an innovative idea to give back to society.

Harte invented his light bulb socket, able to mechanically and electrically interface both screw-type and bayonet-type light bulbs as well as downlight-type light bulbs, while serving a nine-year sentence in a Mauritius jail.

Now he wants to train offenders to assemble and package the sockets, as a way to teach a skill they can use once their sentences have been served.

He plans to offer those interested, a job at his upcoming assembly plants.

“After the story in the Cape Argus, we had a tremendous response, and we are now so far advanced that we should be coming to market by March next year,” Harte said.

He said the idea was borne out of discussions between himself, Bhudu, and their Durban-based associate Shireen Naidoo, who previously ran a clothes manufacturing project at Westville Prison.

Harte, Bhudu and Naidoo have set up a BEEE company that will chiefly employ former prisoners, and recently sent a proposal to the Department of Correctional Services exploring the idea of training prisoners to prepare them for the world of work once released.

Yesterday, Bhudu said the department had yet to respond to the offer.

Inventor and innovator David Harte. File picture
Golden Miles Bhudu, spokesperson for the SA Prisoners' Organisation for Human Rights. Picture: File, Ziphozonke Lushaba

He said they were planning on setting up assembly plants in different provinces, as the demand was high, with 500 000 minimum orders a month.

Naidoo said: “One of the stipulations of the contract is that we train offenders and employ ex-offenders in our assembly plants. So, in other words, the labour force outside prison would be primarily ex-offenders.”

She said that due to the high crime rate, they wanted to do their part to help alleviate it, and help reduce the high rate of recidivism due to the lack of job opportunities.

Harte said: “We offer to pay DCS the full price paid to us by the supplier less the logistical costs. The amount agreed upon for the complete assembly and packaging per socket by DCS and ourselves will be paid over to DCS on a monthly basis.

As part of the proposed deal, they have told the department that they are prepared to meet with them, their legal team and their auditors to discuss the proposal. The have also offered to be audited by the department’s auditors “to ensure complete transparency at all times”.

If the deal is accepted, the DCS will have carte blanche on the number of offenders that will be used depending on the space available at each correctional centre.

Harte said: “DCS will not incur any costs as we will pay for the complete set-up of the plant.

“We will not be making any profit from the work done at any correctional centre. Our profits will only be from our plants outside of the Correctional Centres.”

The three different types of bulbs that can fit Harte's socket. Picture: Mwangi Githahu/Cape Argus

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