John Nicholson’s family helped to dismantle the roof of his home library in Lavender Hill. Picture: Supplied
Cape Town - South African hero John Nicholson on Thursday removed the roof of his home-made library himself, saying it was the “saddest day of my life”.

John made world headlines in 2016 after the Daily Voice revealed how he had turned his garage into a library to encourage children in Lavender Hill to read and to give them a safe space to play in the gang-ravaged area.

He also feeds dozens of children daily, in a community where unemployment is rife.

Donations of books poured in from all corners, but last week John was forced to put his 12 000 books in storage after the City of Cape Town ordered him to remove his leaking garage roof or pay a fine.

Read: Man opens library for kids in backyard

Cape Flats man rewarded for backyard library project

City of Cape Town shuts down hero’s backyard library

John, with the help of a donor, was preparing to replace the leaking roof, but was given bad news when they approached the City for a building plan.

According to Mayoral Committee Member for Area South, Eddie Andrews, John’s garage was illegal as the building plans had not been approved.

John said he then realised that the person who did renovations to his garage two years ago never submitted plans to the City.

John, 52, told the Daily Voice he faced a R30 000 fine, which he could not afford, but Andrews said no amount has been set.

 Picture: Supplied

On Thursday, a sad John, his sons Ryan, 25, and Chadwin, 23, his brothers-in-law Keith and Christopher Doralingo and his friend, Terence Lewis, set about dismantling the garage roof.

The City’s Andrews said officials have been in contact with John this week.

“My office, the subcouncil chairperson and the ward councillor visited Mr Nicholson’s home to determine how best he could be assis- ted,” said Andrews.

“Mr Nicholson was, unfortunately, not at home and they spoke to his wife. Mrs Nicholson suggested we return again when Mr Nicholson is present. In this regard, a subsequent meeting will be arranged for next week.

“Furthermore, the City’s Development Management Department has been in contact with Mr Nicholson’s architect / designer regarding his application.”

Following the Daily Voice story last week, John said dozens of people have offered their help, including engineers and architects who said they would draw up new building plans and submit them to the City on his behalf.

One such engineer, who asked not to be identified, said on Thursday they are still willing to assist.

“I have given John the undertaking that I will offer my professional consulting, structural engineering expertise (i.e. appointment, design, site inspections and certification of relevant structural elements), pro bono for his building project,” the donor said.

“I’ve informed John, and the architect (last Wednesday), that we, at this stage, await a set of architectural plans, before we can provide structural engineering input.

“Our interest is purely to see the library fully operational, soonest, for the benefit of the local kids.”

John Nicholson looks forward to reopening the home library.  Picture: Supplied

John says he has put his faith and trust in God’s hands.

“I see it as a blessing in disguise. This is the renewal, the cleansing,” he says.

“I was also on top of the roof to help all my family members bring it down.

“We are looking forward instead to the reopening of the library and it’s going to be beautiful.”

Meanwhile, John and his wife, Gail, continue to help vulnerable kids in their community.

“We have fed 50 children per day this week with either bread or a warm meal and we will continue to do this. We’ve also kept some books behind for them. And the bicycles (donated to the kids) are being stored in my son’s bedroom.”

Daily Voice