President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, the loser in a prolonged power struggle with his rival, Jacob Zuma, agreed Saturday to resign after the top echelon of his party, the African National Congress, asked him to quit.

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, the loser in a prolonged power struggle with his rival, Jacob Zuma, agreed Saturday to resign after the top echelon of his party, the African National Congress, asked him to quit.

The party’s decision is a harsh rebuke to the man who succeeded Nelson Mandela. Mbeki had served the congress as an acolyte in the nation’s freedom struggle and, later, for two decades as one of its most prominent leaders.

Mbeki’s office confirmed within hours that he would be stepping down “after all constitutional requirements are met.”

An acting president will be appointed from Parliament, likely within days.

According to South African law, Zuma, who is not a member of Parliament, is ineligible to replace Mbeki. But Zuma is expected to run for Parliament next year and is then likely to become president.

Saturday’s events bring to a close a nine-year presidency during which Mbeki brought a moribund economy back from its deathbed. But whatever those gains, they moved too sluggishly to lift up most of those in need. Unemployment, variously estimated at between 25 and 40 percent, has remained a manacle on the millions of South Africans living in the shanties.

At the same time, Mbeki became internationally notorious for his views about AIDS, joining maverick scientists in questioning whether a virus was the cause of the illness.

He led the resistance to antiretroviral treatment, acting as if the AIDS epidemic were a defamatory plot against Africans and a con job by avaricious pharmaceutical companies. This intransigence, critics say, sent thousands to a needless death.

Saturday’s action is actually the culmination of seven years of discontent between South Africa’s most powerful politicians, Mbeki and Zuma, the man he fired in 2005 as his deputy.