Ex-top sportswoman now chasing financial criminals 

Yolanda Tjipuka (sitting, left) with her Civics teammates in her netball-playing days. Tjipuka won three league titles and one club championship with Civics. Photos: Contributed

Windhoek-born Yolanda Tjipuka, better known as Yolanda Kaumbi during her sport career, shone equally in athletics and netball in her heydays.

Being the daughter of Alfred ‘Juku’ Tjazuko and Titi Kaumbi, who excelled as a netball player for African Stars, it didn’t come as a surprise that she became a successful sportswoman in her own right.

Tjipuka says: “I had a very beautiful journey on the sport scene. When I was young I would go with my dad to Stars’ training and kick around the soccer ball by myself.

“I was starting to develop a few soccer skills, but then the netball bug bit me.”

Former Black Africa and national team defender Yvonne Kotjipati was tasked to shape her into a defender during her primary school years, Tjipuka says.

“I was literally on fire in defence and I was really thriving in my new role. I sustained a very serious career-threatening injury in 2001 when an opponent elbowed me in the head.

“I was told to quit playing netball by my doctor, and my mom would also stop me from playing,” she says.

Tjipuka says she would, however, constantly sneak out of the house to go and play netball with her friends.

Her perseverance paid off, because returned to the game a much-improved player, although she would occasionally play with braces as a precautionary measure.

“I really preferred playing netball above athletics, but in 1999 I received a scholarship of a cool yearly N$3 000 from the Frank Fredericks Foundation until I finished school,” she says.

Former sprinter Yolanda Tjipuka may have retired from burning up the track, but the former 100m, 200m and 400m occasionally participates in fun runs.

“I bought myself decent running shoes and I could also pay my school fees,” she says.

Tjipuka’s love for netball was “overwhelming”, she says, and she joined Civics as a 16-year-old.

She moved to United for a short stint, which beat Wanderers in the annual derby that also includes a rugby match, but returned to Civics the next season.

Tjipuka’s talent attracted the attention of the national team selectors, and she found herself in the company of other talented young netball players as she went on to represent the country between the under-16 and under-19 levels.


“My moment of glory on the netball court came in 2001 when national team coach Carol Garoes assembled a group of young players, mixed with a few experienced senior players to go play in the African Championships in Ghana, and we returned triumphant,” she enthuses.

“I will be forever grateful to the national team selectors panel for making me part of that history-making team to West Africa,” she says.

Tjipuka, who retired from playing competitive netball in 2008, added three more league titles to her collection, and she is also a proud winner of the 13th annual Mariental Netball Tournament.

In the sprints Tjipuka enjoyed the 200m, “because I would always pick up speed towards the end”.

“I was never a dominant figure on the athletics track, but I had my own fair share of exceptional races. I also cherished running the 400m, because I had endurance.

“Former WHS runner Lomey Weisz was always my toughest opponent in the 100m, but I commanded the 200m.”

The retired star was a regular winner of the Junior Victrix Ludorum and Senior Victrix Ludorum at primary school and high school.


Tjipuka has been married to Sydney Tjipuka for the past 14 years, and they have two children.

Operi and Sydney Tjipuka said ‘I Do’ to each other 14 years ago.

She says she now fights money laundering at a prominent bank.

“In the financial services industry, reputation and credibility are important, especially in building lasting brands that customers and investors can trust.

“Excellent service and financial success are among the hallmarks banks strive for,” she says.

Tjipuka’s portfolio includes supervising anti-money laundering programmes and combating the financing of terrorism.

She and her husband are running the Operi and Sydney Child Foundation, of which the core function is to assist athletes who lack resources, providing them with running shoes.

“Under the foundation, we have our annual event known as ‘Donate a Kick’. We have people who donate their second-hand pair of running shoes, or even brand new shoes and money.

“We will be at the national athletics championships next week,” Tjipuka says.

“Then off to the Sanlam Coastal Marathon, where we have partnered up with Sanlam to donate our shoes there. So many talented yet underprivileged athletes run in socks or barefoot.

“Last year we donated about 45 pairs of shoes at the Sanlam Coastal Marathon.”

Tjipuka’s advice to young athletes is “to be more serious with their God-given talent, because they seem to be lacking drastically in their level of commitment and dedication”.

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