ANC secretary general Kgalema Motlanthe wants the party to recruit a million paid-up members by 2012, but the president, Thabo Mbeki, has raised concerns that the party should go for quality rather than quantity.
Mbeki is worried that the party is carrying too many members who are simply jumping onto the ANC gravy train, and pushes the line that it is better to have fewer members who are better educated about the party.
"Over the last five years we have increased our membership significantly. From 416000 members in 2002, the membership of the ANC has increased to more than 620000," Motlanthe said.
"The membership of the ANC is larger than it has ever been. Could it be that the decision of our 1942 national conference, to expand the membership of the movement to one million members, is within reach? The incoming NEC may wish set this as a goal for the 53rd national conference."
In his address to the conference, Mbeki bemoaned the quality of ANC members and said they did not have enough political education.
"The reality is that we have not attended to this matter with the seriousness and consistency it demands.
"As a result of this failure, we must expect that we will have members who, among other things, will have very little familiarity with the history and traditions of the ANC, its policies, its value system and its organisational practices," he said.