Magona later graduated from the University of South Africa and earned a Master of Science Degree in Organisational Social Work from Columbia University.
In 1993 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Hartwick College, Oneonta, and in 1997 she was a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow in the non-fiction category. She worked in various capacities for the United Nations over 20 years, retiring in 2003, and currently lives in South Africa. In the 2013 computer-animated adventure comedy film Khumba she was the voice actor for the character Gemsbok Healer.
She is Writer-in-Residence at the University of the Western Cape and is currently working at Georgia State University.
She published her autobiography To My Children"s Children in 1990. This was performed at the Baxter Theatre complex in late 2009 and the film rights to the novel were acquired by Type A Films in 2003.
She has also written autobiographies and short story collections. In 2009, Please, Take Photographs, her first collection of poems, was published.