The Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) has recently been found to harbour an increase of more than 200 per cent in its known cluster population. Here, we provide solid evidence that this unprecedented number of clusters could be greatly overestimated. On the one hand, the fully automatic procedure used to identify such an enormous cluster candidate sample did not recover ∼50 per cent, on average, of the known relatively bright clusters located in the SMC main body. On the other hand, the number of new cluster candidates per time unit as a function of time is noticeably different from the intrinsic SMC cluster frequency (CF), which should not be the case if these new detections were genuine physical systems. We found additionally that the SMC CF varies spatially, in such a way that it resembles an outside-in process coupled with the effects of a relatively recent interaction with the Large Magellanic Cloud. By assuming that clusters and field stars share the same formation history, we showed for the first time that the cluster dissolution rate also depends on position in the galaxy. The cluster dissolution becomes higher as the concentration of galaxy mass increases or if external tidal forces are present.