Born to make a difference, when business meets social demands

By Honorine Kaze
February 2014
Women in Business



The entrepreneurial spirit is innate in Cynthea Martin Haihambo. This spirit drove her into establishing and running various businesses ventures of her own.


Growing up, she took turns with her siblings by working in her dad’s shop after school. This was a more than a training booth camp which laid a foundation for her business acumen later in life, she recalls.


She notes that while she got the business mind from her dad, she inherited the social abilities from her mother who is involved in various community projects including a soup kitchen she holds for under privileged children and elderly in Lüderitz.


Her mother’s illustrious example rubbed off in the entire family as they later on set up a community centre meant to empower and give back to the community of Lüderitz.


Haihambo, a qualified social worker, has various business interests under her name, these includes  Renlyn Namibia (Pty) Ltd which is a subsidiary of the Renlyn Group in South Africa with interest in bulk chemical supplies, water treatment chemicals and services for NamWater, the Namibian water utility company.


The company has also set up greenhouses to look into ways to secure agricultural supplies for food security.


Furthermore, she is involved in Hebhiziba Holding (Pty) Ltd trading as Greiters Conference Centre. The centre provides a serene and breath taking conference environment for organisations to conduct their trainings and workshops. Nestled just outside the capital it has a capacity to accommodate more than 200 people and four training venues at one goal.


She is also a shareholder in the African Energy Cooperation project; a U$4 billion (N$ 40b) project within the Renewal Energy Sectoral Solar farm in the Erongo District.


“Its primary mission is the development of a large scale alternative energy projects in the Sub-Saharan Africa by recognising an opportunity in the rapidly evolving solar industry to fulfil a role between vertically integrated manufactures and emerging market utility as a strategic utility scale project developer,” she says.


She also owns a design Advertising Company  Jabaru 3D Design Adverting Company meant for developing  logos and 3D presentation marketing material for companies in Namibia and South Africa.


She stresses that, her business’ mission is always international as she does not believe in limiting her vision.


Haihambo is a firm believer of giving back to others thus engages into projects that benefits the well being of others.


Following an accident that occurred early 2000 in which she was the only survivor out of four people and which almost left her paralysed, leaving her wheelchair bound for two years, inspired her to start Capernaum Health Care Programme in 2004.


“During the time I was at home after spending three months in the hospital, I was amazed at how miraculous it was for me to have survived and that meant that I had been preserved for a bigger purpose, so I started soul searching,” she recalls.


During that time, she realised that most employees were not as dedicated to their jobs as they should because of various personal issues which cut off their positivity and productivity. She noted another impediment that it was difficult for them to approach their employers for explanations or advices, so she embarked on studying a Master on Employees System programme at the University of Pretoria.


She then set up Capernaum Health Care Programme which is a 100% Namibian owned company based on the World renowned Wellness principles and social welfare values.


“The wellness principles cover a broad area of the human function in the workplace and recognise body, mind and spirit.”


She has then introduced the wellness programme in various institutions such as Bank of Namibia (BoN), Motor vehicle Accident Fund (MVA), Mobile Telecommunication Limited (MTC).


On the other hand, striving to help beat and treat people with alcohol addiction, she has also invested time and resources into establishing a rehabilitation centre.


Her passion into fighting this disease (alcoholism) which is crippling the nation started when she realised that more youngsters were living without any goals or purpose thus ending prioritising alcohol.


She notes that, “Alcohol abuse has become a huge problem in Namibia and in Correlation with Vision 2030 and many organisations, the centre has taken up the challenge to help find solutions to this problem by establishing a rehabilitation centre.”


She adds that the Ministry of Health study on substance use among Namibians found that 53.5% of youths aged 13-30 use alcohol, thus, children are also beginning to drink at early ages.


“The market size can be estimated by using the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) study on Alcohol and Drug Abuse which have found that in Namibia at least 60% of the population consume alcohol and based on those figures at least 50% of this drinkers have pattern of problematic alcohol consumption.


The fact that Etagemano Rehabilitation Centre has been closed for the past two years, she then saw it necessary to open the rehabilitation centre to fill the gap. Therefore she forwarded an application to the Ministry of Health and Social Services for the establishment of the Centre called ‘The Hephizibah Rehabilitation Centre’.


She admits it was not easy convincing others to understand her vision, nor assemble a good business team and partnership.


Furthermore, in starting up her businesses, the unforeseen business challenges and expenses and how to balance positive cash flow for monthly expenses has been among the many hurdles he had to deal with, but she notes that it is up to her to learn and understand the cash flow system.


The centre situated at just about 10 km outside of Windhoek in Brakwater, operating from the Greiter’s Conference Centre offers an in-house treatment programme for stress, alcohol and substance abuse and addiction treatment.


The centre which is furnished and decorated in the liveliest colours to keep the patients in good spirit has a library to keep them occupied and learning; it also has a beauty parlour, a gym, a sauna and a steam room to make sure that by the time they leave, they look healthy and ready for the next adventure head on.


The programme consists of group therapy, individual counselling, family programme and support counselling, boot camps, addiction education amongst many other components to ensure they leave addiction free.


The centre focuses on the 12 steps of Assessment in evaluating which patients really need admissions, by screening, determining the quadrant, locus of responsibility before admitting a patient.


“The inpatient will usually go through various phases where they normally start by being  in denial of their problem, therefore we have to take them through the process of realising what is wrong, what has caused it and eventually helping them with their reintegration in the society,” Haihambo says.


She further plans on adding a youth centre rehabilitation wing based on the World Health Organisation (WHO) 2011 global status report on Alcohol and Health where Namibia is ranked fifth on the African continent in terms of annual alcohol consumption with the average Namibian consuming 9.62 litres of alcohol per year.


Being caught in the Business Woman of the Year saga where she had been chosen as the winner, only to get her crown stripped out under unclear circumstances has not dampened her resolve, instead she has emerged  as  fervent fighter for the women’s development.


“Winning a competition or a prize always created happiness and joy and I was happy at the first announcement then, the call five days later that it was a mistake was disappointing and until today I am still trying to understand the definition of the term business woman in the Namibian context in correlation with Wikipedia, Macmillan and the Collins English Directory,” she notes.


However, she was happy to have been part of it as it enables her to widen her network and also be able to liaise further with other business women and besides she was awarded the business owner award.


Looking at the struggle of women in the business world, Haihambo emphasises that whether they are male or woman in business, respect is earned and never given.


She is involved in various project meant at mentoring, supporting young ladies and women in either for their school ventures or guide those with an entrepreneur spirit but are blocked with fear of the unknown.


As if that is not enough she is also part of the founding committee of the Destiny Women Programme which aims at mentoring, supporting young ladies and she also played an essential part in the foundation of the Cinderella ball which has donated over 200 matric dresses throughout the country to under privileged girls.


She underlines that there are some popular explanation for the lack of respect of women in management or business as ‘they are not capable or they are not interested which undermines their power within an institution; while today’s economic world needs both male and female to be equally treated.


“Ladies in leadership positions are critical not only because they can manage as well as men but we can also make different kinds of decisions and bring different ideas to the table; we approach risk from a different perspective and understand diversity as something more than abstract theory.”


This business woman, philanthropic, mother and wife and author acknowledges the continual support she has been receiving from her family and close friend and especially from her husband of 21 years whom she has partnered with in her business venture making him her business partner, husband and best friend, she says.


“It took me years and hard lessons on learning how to schedule my business’ meetings, what I can say is that in 2014 I will cut out things that do not add value to my life.”


She vows to help more women in this year to find themselves and their purposes in life. As she has always done, she intend planning whenever possible retreats to teach and empower and encourage each other as women to keep moving higher.


From lessons received from life, she says a woman is “like a butterfly, strong and confident helper but she does not fly. She starts as an egg; the egg is weak, tiny and fragile and can easily be destroyed and it is with that in mind that I changed my mind that sometimes, broken images lie shattered within the mind’s deepest recesses. These are reflections of one’s life frozen in time, but the road ahead call out, what the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a destiny butterfly.” PF