Walter Sidney Felgate was born on 19 November 1930 in Pretoria, Transvaal (now Gauteng). Felgate graduated from Pretoria Boys High School in 1949. He studied at the University of Natal from 1956 to 1959, earning an honours degree in social anthropogy. Thereafter, he was employed by the Institute for Social Research at the university and undertook research in Tongaland (north-eastern Zululand). When the government withdrew his permit for the area, he was seconded to Lisbon University through the University of Lourenco Marques and worked in the rural areas of southern Mozambique for a year. He was a controversial speech-writer and senior advisor to Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi. He later defected to the African National Congress (ANC).An active Methodist, Felgate disliked the SACOD's left-wing leanings, so joined the fledgling Liberal Party (LP) instead, becoming its Southern Natal regional secretary until 1968.
He conducted field research in the Ingwavuma area, during which he learned Zulu, he lectured in anthropology at Rhodes University from 1968 to 1971.He then did labour research for the Chamber of Mines,and subsequently was an advisor to Rio Tinto Zinc at Phalaborwa. He establish labour monitoring committee at Phalaborwa which he invited Beyers Naude and Chief Buthelezi to join. Naude befriended him, and after Naude's passport was withdrawn in 1974,Felgate represented Naude abroad in trying to facilitate contact between Buthelezi, the ANC, and the Black Concsiousness Movement. Felgate became an informal advisor to Buthelezi after the formation of Inkatha in 1975,and when Inkatha-ANC relations broke down in 1980,he deepened his attachment to Buthelezi whom he was as a possible future South Africa president.
He published Inkatha's newspaper,The Nation, the briefly managed textbook sales for Kwazulu schools. Buthelezi, the unchallengeable leader of a patronage-based organization that had limited policy-making and organization capabilities, came to lean heavily on Felgate as a source of ideas and administrative ability. When Inkatha opened its membership to all races in 1990,Felgate became its first white member,then a member of its central committee, its chief representative during the constitutional negotiations and in 1994 an Inkatha Freedom Party member of Parliament. In August 1997,Fegate defected to the ANC, denouncing Buthelezi as an autocrat unable to adjust democracy. His later testimony to the truth and Reconciliation Commission confirmed Inkatha's co-operation in state-sponsored violence. After a stint as an ANC member of the Kwazulu-Natal provincial legislature, Felgate retired due to ill health. He died on 8January 2008 in Johannesburg.