Johannesburg - Phylicia Oppelt has been appointed editor of the Sunday Times, the Times Media Group (TMG) said on Friday.

Oppelt would take over the reins next month from editor Ray Hartley, who would take a two-month sabbatical.

On his return, Hartley would assume a senior position in TMG, formerly known as Avusa, the company said.

Oppelt would be the first female editor in the 107-year history of the Sunday Times.

She is currently editor of Times Media's national daily newspaper, The Times.

TMG managing director Mike Robertson said: “As editor of the Sunday Times, Ray has been instrumental in restoring the paper's status as South Africa's leading investigative title.”

During Hartley's tenure as editor, Sunday Times journalists had won virtually all the awards on offer, including the prestigious Standard Bank Sivukile and Taco Kuiper awards for investigative journalism.

“Under his leadership, the newspaper has undertaken some groundbreaking investigations Ä the awards the Sunday Times investigations team has won during the three years of his editorship are testament to that,” Robertson said.

Oppelt has a long career in journalism, including a four year period as a columnist and op-ed editor for the Sunday Times, a stint as editor of the Daily Dispatch from 2005 to 2008, and as editor of Business Times from 2008 to 2010.

In 2010, she was appointed editor of The Times, which had entered the market in June 2007 under Hartley's editorship.

“Phylicia has been an outstanding editor of The Times, taking it to a leadership position in the all important Gauteng market, Robertson said.

“It is a testament to her skill and dedication to the craft of journalism that she becomes the first woman editor of SA's leading newspaper.” - Sapa