ELEVEN people, including six South African Air Force members, died when a military aircraft crashed in the Drakensberg near Ladysmith on Wednesday, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) said.

"On board the aircraft was a crew of six with five passengers, and it was confirmed that there are no survivors," SANDF spokesman Siphiwe Dlamini said.

He said the SANDF had started informing the next of kin of those who died, and that their names would be released thereafter.

Mr Dlamini also said a board of inquiry had been convened to investigate the cause of the accident.

The Dakota aircraft went missing en route to Mthatha after it took off from Waterkloof air-force base in Pretoria on Wednesday.

After no more communication was received from the aircraft, the air force activated a search-and-rescue mission, but severe weather in the area hindered the operation.

"At first light this morning (Thursday), the rescue team continued their efforts and located the wreckage in the Drakensberg mountains," said Mr Dlamini.

Earlier reports had speculated that the plane might have been carrying a medical team to do a routine check-up on former president Nelson Mandela, but Mr Dlamini dismissed these reports as incorrect.

Sapa