Police were unable to contain violent clashes between National Freedom Party (NFP) members and Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) supporters in KwaMashu.
South African Press Association reporter Giordano Stolley lost his car in the unrest in the Durban township on Sunday.
"There were too few people for the tensions that existed," he said.
He estimated that 100 police officers were at the scene, where NFP leader Zanele KaMagwaza-Msibi was blocked from entering KwaMashu's A section.
Most of the police attended the front of her convoy, which was initially peaceful.
Her convoy consisted of about 30 cars or more.
A group of about 200 IFP supporters blocked their way carrying sticks and bottles. Two people were carrying a banner bearing a picture of IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi.
Protesters ignored an order to disperse. The convoy's tail end was stoned and shots were fired.
"When the tail end got hammered there was nothing [the police] could do," Stolley said.
Realising there was trouble ahead, he pulled his car over and got out to take pictures.
While he was gone, the car was moved out into the road and set on fire.
Two journalists who had remained with the car were pelted with stones by the crowd.
"I realised there were no cops anywhere," said Stolley. By the time he managed to get back to the car, with bricks and stones flying, it was too late to intervene.
By the time police arrived on the scene, the car was already burnt out, he said.
Stolley also lost his laptop, hard drive, and camera bag in the blaze.
"I really liked the car. It was one of those imported Brazilian Fiats that went everywhere and anywhere, and it was very economical," he said.
Stolley also lost pictures and videos of his daughter which had not been backed up.
"I'm just angry and agitated," he said.
"My feeling is that there were too few people for the tensions that existed. I'm not sure Msibi was wise to even be there," he said.
Other cars were also damaged, with another press car pelted with stones, and NFP car windows were shattered.
Police said investigations were continuing into public violence and malicious damage to property.
Colonel Vincent Mdunge said no arrests had been made yet.
'A terrible situation'
NFP spokesperson Nhlanhla Khubisa said when their supporters entered KwaMashu they saw a group of singing IFP supporters carrying pangas and sticks.
"When we were passing by our cars were stoned, windows [were] smashed. It was a terrible situation. And a car belonging to a journalist was burnt to ashes," said Khubisa.
The NFP had intended to prepare for by-elections next month at a hostel in the area.
IFP spokesperson Mdu Nkosi said the party wanted to sympathise with Stolley.
"For now we can't take the blame or deny it. In those hostels there are people staying there but not belonging to political parties… they might have taken opportunity to do criminal acts hiding under politics," said Nkosi.
He said the IFP would do its own investigation to find out if their members were involved.
"I don't want to say we know who did it," Nkosi added. – Sapa